A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhatena is definitely a story that I can't forget. This book tackles a lot of tough topics and before I go on I want to say these pages do contain bullying, rape, and physical abuse and the author handled them very well.
First of all, this is an incredible read. To me, it reads more like true events than a fictional story and I found it tough to get into and then impossible to put down. I think it was hard to start because there are a fair amount of characters to meet and multiple points of view. Also, this is set in Saudi Arabia. Their culture, language, and traditions are alien to me, so it took longer to immerse myself in the setting. Honestly, I don't think it is possible for me to appreciate the full impact of this story, and that's okay because it wasn't written for me. That did not stop me from enjoying and appreciating Bhatena for showing me a glimpse of this world so different from my own. And I still could relate to a lot of what the characters went through because a lot of what young adults face is applicable in all cultures.
Zarin, the main character is such a tough character. Her parents both died when she was very young and now she lives with an aunt and uncle who don't always appreciate her presence in their lives. Zarin is also a girl who steps outside the boundaries, breaks through the caution tape and defies the rules. I really loved her fire. Every one of the characters is unlikable and some are downright despicable. Except perhaps Porus, who is just the sweetest friend and protector to Zarin. The muliple points of view into each character's life was really interesting. I didn't feel like I got to know any of them really well but I saw important moments that influenced them. I don't believe that Bhatena ever justified the antagonist behaviors of the characters but she did show us just how complex each life is behind closed doors.
At the start of the book and even in the synopsis we know that Zarin is dead and then the story begins in the past leading up to the accident. I knew what was coming, eventually, but I was not prepared for the journey I would go on with Zarin. Bhatena flipped my expectations over, surprised me, delighted me and broke my heart. *JK*