By Sheba Karim (Macmillan)
I was immediately hooked from page one of Sheba Karim's young adult novel Skunk Girl, and not just because of the familiarity of Jolene hair bleach and SAT antonyms. Karim's writing makes overbearing parents and obsessive academic regimes more than just painful and resonant themes. Skunk Girl Is breezy and grounded and funny, just like its teenage Pakistani American protagonist, Nina Khan. Although Nina is plagued with hirsute South Asian cultural predicaments (literally and otherwise), she's also just a normal teenager with the usual foils and foibles. This clear-eyed and tender treatment of Desi Muslim American life might be one of the best points of the book. The dialogue and pacing is great, and I found myself really wanting to know what Nina was going to do next, whether tiny tumult or grand upheaval. Some of the interactions seemed too mature, a Ia Dawson's Creek, but maybe I'm not giving kids their due. I so wish this book had been around 20 years ago when I was 15, so I wouldn't have felt like the only lonely hairy girl out there.