Author: Aminah Mae Safi
Publication Date & Publisher: Feiwel and Friends (MacMillan), June 19, 2018
Genre(s): Young Adult
Length: 327 pages
My Rating: 4.5/5.0
Description (from Goodreads):
Lulu Saad doesn’t need your advice, thank you very much. She’s got her three best friends and nothing can stop her from conquering the known world. Sure, for half a minute she thought she’d nearly drowned a cute guy at a party, but he was totally faking it. And fine, yes, she caused a scene during Ramadan. It’s all under control. Ish.
Except maybe this time she’s done a little more damage than she realizes. And if Lulu can’t find her way out of this mess soon, she’ll have to do more than repair friendships, family alliances, and wet clothing. She’ll have to go looking for herself.
There was so much I loved in Not the Girls You’re Looking For, that it’s going to be hard for me not to ramble on and on, but I promise to try!
The main character, Lulu, has a bad habit of getting herself into situations with boys that she shouldn’t. We’re first introduced to Lulu as she’s trying to recover from her latest bad decision with a boy she doesn’t even really like. She’s been warned by her best friends that she’s going to get into serious trouble one day, but, like so many other things, she shrugs it off. Eventually, she does end up in a position she almost doesn’t escape from. I think the author did a good job of showing how Lulu’s high risk behavior doesn’t excuse the boy for his actions, and also shows the psychological effects of the encounter on Lulu.
Lulu’s father is Arab and her mother is a white woman from Louisiana. I love how this book is open about Lulu’s struggles with identity and where she “fits”. It didn’t back down from showing this not just from Lulu’s side, but also how she sees others around her, including, her own family’s struggle with the realities of her parent’s relationship and what that means for Lulu.
To be honest, it’s hard for me to find books I can connect with as much as I did with this one. Lulu experiences racism from kids she grew up with, including from boys she’d had crushes on and even boys she’d kissed – something that I also experienced growing up. It’s a complex feeling, one that’s near impossible to describe… when the people you’ve loved and thought you were accepted & loved by in return, reject you not for who you are, but for “what” you are.
Side rant: I could have really used a book like this when I was growing up! Unfortunately, though I read everything I could get my hands on as a child (not unlike now), there wasn’t a single book with a bi-racial character in it. So out of hundreds of books, I never found one featuring someone I could relate to. That’s not to say that those books didn’t exist, just that none made their way into my hands. It would have been incredibly helpful to have known that I wasn’t as alone as I felt. I’m so incredibly thankful that books like this one finally have a place in this world!
This is one of the most real paragraphs in the book, and it hit home so hard that it made me cry:
Lulu couldn’t help but be reminded of countless conversations she’d had, over and over again; they played out in her head. Of strangers asking her over and over again, what she was. Like a piece of flora or fauna. Like she was missing her proper taxonomy. That her father had planned this kind of life for her was a new idea for Lulu, and the reality of it took her breath away.
There’s a lot I want to say about that, but I’m getting side-tracked and I promised not to ramble, so I’m going to just leave that there and move on… (Except I am going to make this request: If you ever find yourself referring to someone as a “what” instead of a “who”, please stop. Apologize immediately, and then go deal with whatever it is in your heart that allowed you to go there in the first place.)
I love books with messy, real characters and Not the Girls You’re Looking For is full of them! The relationships are raw and real in a way you can’t always find. The conversations Lulu has with her friends are exactly the way I see my teens and their friends talking to each other, so bonus points for being realistic! I also loved the way every character in this book grew and changed, not just the main character!
I definitely recommend reading this one!
I received a free review copy of this book through a giveaway hosted by Eric Smith. This in no way influenced my review.
What do you think of Not the Girls You’re Looking For? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave me a comment below!