Fight Back

By Kirkus Reviews

Thirteen-year-old Aaliyah is attending a K-pop concert in Lambert, England, with her friends when an explosion sends the audience stampeding to safety.

Mum and Dad have agreed to allow Aaliyah to attend her first concert. With her are Lisa, who is White; Sukhi, who is Indian Sikh; and Sukhi’s 21-year-old sister, Harpreet. Aaliyah’s Muslim family has connections to Tanzania, Pakistan, India, and Iraq. A panic-inducing terrorist attack was not part of their plans. Mayhem erupts as the girls escape. Outside, Aaliyah is relieved to see Lisa’s brother, Darren—until he spews anti-Muslim venom at her. The aftermath of these events leaves Aaliyah feeling anxious in crowds, and she finds comfort in her hospitalized neighbor’s cat, which she hides in her room; her parents had already vetoed her campaign to get a cat of her own. The Islamophobic harassment escalates along with bullying at school and a menacing White Zone hate group led by Darren. Aaliyah decides to empower herself by donning a hijab to remind the world that being Muslim does not equate to being dangerous; she also learns that her mother started wearing the hijab after 9/11. The attention-grabbing writing style and intensifying pace suit the storyline, and characters develop in plausible ways. Hope is interjected into the serious tone as Black, Jewish, and Chinese classmates, among others, share their experiences and help Aaliyah and her friends take action against racism and xenophobia.

This group of committed friends will win readers’ hearts. (guidance for allies, glossary, author’s note)

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