Title: A Girl Like That
Author: Tanaz Bhathena
Publisher: Penguin India
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult
Rating: 4 Stars
Oh, let me tell you one thing right at the onset: This book will make you cry and then you wouldn’t know what to do with yourself. There. That’s the only disclaimer I have for you. “A Girl Like That” may seem like any other young adult book you have read but that’s not the case and well, there is only one way to find that out. You must read the book for yourself.
Everyone thinks they knew Zarin Wadia or at least have an opinion about her. From the students studying at the Qala Academy in Jeddah to her teachers and her friends’ parents to her own aunt and many more who just labelled her “that kind of girl”, the ones who branded her a slut, rebel and a bastard. Zarin’s parents are dead. She has been staying with her uncle and aunt since she was a child and there is no love lost there. She grows to be this person no one can make sense of, except for Porus Dumasia, her very best friend, who eventually falls in love with her. The story starts when Porus and Zarin die in a car crash together and everyone starts speculating about her life. More than that, also about the two of them.
Bhathena takes us to the Saudi Arabia of today – what it is, its hypocrisies, the double standards and more than anything else, its culture (not very different really). I loved the fact that she tells a story without any judgement or moral high-ground. It is just a story of Zarin, of her identity, of wanting to know how her mother died, and make sense of the world surrounding her.
“A Girl Like That” is not restricted to a particular group of people to read. Please do not consider it to be a young adult novel. It crosses over into the adult genre of fiction easily and hence deserves that kind of audience who will also read it and appreciate the prose. It may seem cliché to begin with but please do not give up on the read. It is insightful, empathetic and teaches us on so many levels just to be kind to people when we can.