Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Wishing Upon the Same Stars, by Jacquetta Nammar Feldman

The move from Detroit to San Antonio is a big change for Yasmeen.  She's used to her predominantly Arab community and San Antonio is so different.  She just hopes that she'll fit in and that people will like her.  What she finds is a bit more complicated.  She is surprised to find that stories of Texan hospitality really are true.  Her neighbor Waverly warmly welcomes her.  The neighbors, while a bit taken aback by Yasmeen's family, are largely friendly.  But there are others who see her differences as something to hate, from the mean man at the restaurant who threatens her father to the bully at school who accuses Yasmeen of being a terrorist.  But the most complicated relationship of all is with Ayelet, a girl who is also from the Middle East, but who's Israeli.  In principle, the girls have a lot in common as immigrants, but the shadow of the conflict in their homeland hangs over them.  Can they forge a friendship against so much pressure to hate?

As is typical in a middle reader, there's plenty going on in this book:  Yasmeen has to learn how to dance, Yasmeen's sister goes to the National Spelling Bee, grandmother comes to live with them, and so on. With fairly simple age-appropriate explanations of the intifada, a faint hint of a romantic interest (but not even a kiss), and a story of largely well-behaved young people, this novel has little to object to.

The key message is about forging true friendships based on loyalty and kindness.  Through determination and a fair amount of bravery, Yasmeen stands up for what she wants:  to have the friends she wants to have, to be so the things she wants to do, and to be the person she wants to be.  And while everything comes together a bit too neatly and the book's ending stops just short of solving the Mideast Crisis, it's a charming story of young people trying to break free of their parents' prejudices.

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