Friday, May 19, 2017

Review: That Thing We Call a Heart - Sheba Karim

That Thing We Call a Heart 
Sheba Karim
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Coming of Age
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Shabnam was preparing to close the high school chapter of her life, just as "fate" brought Jamie into her world. This charming boy swept her off her feet, and she felt like she was simultaneously in the best and worst place of her life. Best, because she was falling in love. Worst, because she missed her best friend, Farah, who she had a falling out with.  She hoped to both repair this friendship and give her heart to someone she thought was worthy.

These are the type of diverse reads that I love. I have starting calling them "bridge books", because I believe they do such a good job of letting people of other faiths/cultures gain a little insight into another person's faith/culture. I was reading a review by Jen of YA Romantics, and she nailed what I think is so perfect about a book like this: while teaching us about differences, it also reminds us how we are the same.  This has been my battle cry for so long, and I am elated to see so many books lately, that are doing this so well.

I instantly took a liking to Shabnam. She was not great at editing her stream of consciousness, and some really amusing and honest things often came out. But it was ok, because she was growing and changing, and this was all part of her process. I was glad she went through this process, because in the beginning of the book, I was sort of disappointed in her. I thought she really under appreciated her parents, was insensitive to Farah's big life change, and made too much of an effort to impress people who should not have even mattered. But by the end of the book, I was so proud of all the work she did to mend her relationship with Farah, to build a relationship with her parents, and to get to know her roots a little better.
"You're Muslim?"
"My mother is," I told her.
"What's your dad?"
She snorted. "And what about you?"
"Me? I'm...nothing."
"You can't be nothing. At minimum, you're a Homo sapiens."
The rift between Shabnam and Farah grew from Farah deciding to be a hijabi. Her choice to wear the scarf, and outwardly declare herself a Muslim made Shabnam uncomfortable. This whole storyline made me sad, because although I thought Shabnam should not be ashamed of being seen with Farah, I knew there was a whole lot of truth to her concerns, and that just made me ashamed of society.
"I knew a piece of cloth should't make a difference, that she was still the same person underneath, but it did make a difference."
One aspect of this book, which I really loved, was the inclusion of Urdu poetry. Shabnam originally began asking her father about the poetry as a way to impress Jamie, but over time, it became a way for her to connect to her father. It was beautiful to see the relationship between Shabnam and her socially awkward mathematician father grow. Karim thoughtfully wove the poetry into the story, and each line selected was beautiful and meaningful within Shabnam's story.
"I felt like a different person than when he'd first visited. Broken, but determined to put myself back together, hopefully into something stronger."
This was a lovely and often amusing story about first love, first heartbreak, family, friendships, and finding oneself. I throughly enjoyed this book, and hope to read more of Karim's work.

**I would like to thank Edelweiss and the publisher for the advanced copy of this book. Quotes are from an ARC and may change upon publication.

There are many scenes in this book, which take place with incredible donuts and fantastic pies. 

Do you have favorite kind of pie or donut?
Let us know in the comments!


  1. Awesome review! That first quote is very sad and cute that the same time.
    I adore apple or pumpkin pie :)

    1. I thought the quote was really relevant, because this books deals with identity. Pumpkin is one of my faves as well.

  2. That is such great quote. You've made me excited to read this one!
    Megan @

    1. It was an interesting coming of age story for me, because it involved cultures that I am not as well versed in. I loved the things I learned, and really appreciated the way the author shared this with me.

  3. I first heard about this one on Jen's blog and so happy to see you liked it too. Great review!!

    1. Jen is quickly becoming someone I agree with quite often, and we seem to be reading all the same books too. =)

    2. *creepily peeks in* What are you reading now???

    3. OMG! I am laughing so hard right now. I am just finished Internet Famous. =)

  4. Oh, this sounds SO good! I think you are so right about being ashamed of society, because that is really the biggest problem. It's so fabulous (and overdue) that we are seeing so many great books about all kinds of cultures now- hopefully the momentum continues. I have a copy of this, I definitely need to read it ASAP! Great review!

    1. It was good, and I like that these #OwnVoices books I have been reading can maybe give someone who never met a Paki or a Muslim a chance to get to know more about their religion/culture.

  5. This sounds like such a thought-provoking story. And Shabnam seems like a young woman who experiences a lot of growth over the course of the novel. Really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this one, Sam. Great review!

    1. Growth, positive growth, is so important to me. I loved seeing Shabnam working so hard to mend fences and build bridges, while she also embraced parts of her culture.