Ten Things is about Jamie, a teenage girl from Sydney’s south west who lives two lives: at school and in the outside world she is ‘Jamie’, a bottle-blonde with an apparently Anglo Aussie background; at home she is ‘Jamilah’ a Lebanese-Muslim who is proud of her cultural identity. Jamie struggles to maintain her two personas as the rules of her over-protective father collide with the normal adolescence she perceives other teenagers to have and which she so desires.
Life appears to be looking up for Jamie when the most popular boy in school begins to show an interest in her. Added to that she gets an after-school job and makes an email friend, John, the only person with whom she can be completely honest. However her fate as a social outcast appears sealed when her father’s Stone Age Charter of Curfew Rights threatens to prevent her attending the much-anticipated Year 10 formal and her Arabic band is hired to play at the formal.
10) Have a Main Character That’s a Whiney Titty Baby:
Oh, sweet baby Jesus, how I could not stand Jamilah/Jamie.
She is such a weak and despicable character.
Honestly, I should’ve been warned enough with the premises of how she tries to hide her identity, but it’s even worse than that.
There is not one thing I like about this character.
I almost felt bad because she has a sexist father. But she’s not mad at him for being sexist so much. Instead, she’s just mad because she can’t go partying with her friends Saturday night and get drunk and laid.
And yeah, Abdel-Fattah tries to remedy this by trying to make Jamie look responsible by wanting a job, but the only reason she wants a job is to have a gateway into partying.
9) Have a Great Topic but an Epic Fail of an Execution:
You don’t know how much I wanted this one t work. I think having a book with a Muslim protagonist of Lebanese descent would be a great addition to a rather bland world in YA.
But nopity. Nope. Nope. Nope.
The insight, I was given into the protagonist’s religion and culture was about on par with My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and to be honest the culture insight I got from that movie was probably better.
8)Have an Unrealistic Depiction of Racism:
This is an issue everywhere in the world. However, the way that Abdel-Fattah talks about racism has me fuming.
Racism, generally is not that obvious. Oh, sure sometimes it is. But to the extent it was displayed in this book it was downright unrealistic.
People who are as outright racist as Peter generally are not viewed as the BMOC. The majority of the population are going to look at him like he’s a loser. Especially when he starts throwing out racist slurs.
I wish this book would’ve talked about the undertones of racism. The stuff that’s not outright said, but is obviously there. The microagressions. If it would’ve taken an approach of showing this side of society that’s backward rather than giving a hammy look at it, I think it would’ve been a lot more thought provoking than it was.
Caveat Post 2016 Election: While I still think that Peter is a cartoonish loser. His depiction is unfortunately more realistic than naive privilege me based at the time of writing this original review would like to think. Unfortunately, over the top overt racism like Peter’s is making a more common appearance than it should be in today’s society. While I still feel like the character was overall cartoon-like his behavior is unfortunately more realistic to today’s world than I originally wanted to give him credit for. While I still wish that Abdel-Fatah had focused more on microagressions, I can no longer say that Peter is a ridiculous caricature in good consciousness. I can also (unfortunately) no longer say that 99% of people would look at him like he is a creep that he is after all look at who the US voted for president. Shudders.
7) Have an Unrealistic Romance:
The romance or attempt at romance was laughable. The fact that it was a love triangle. Well, excuse me while I go empty my lunch.
In corner one we have love interest one: the most popular guy at school, who’s an open bigot. Obviously, our main character should hate him and stay out of his way. But nope, he’s popular so that must equal love.
I freaking kid you not. Fawn over someone who makes fun of your culture and religion just because he’s the most popular boy in school.
And then there’s boy number two who’s her secret online admirer. Who’s conversation is so wooden, it reads like a bad fan fic. It’s obvious who this boy is, but are character of course is stupid enough to be clueless. Also, the way he behaves online makes me want to get those guys from To Catch a Predator on the case.
6) Have Teens Not Act Like Teens:
Or at least teens that I know.
I swear, these kids had the maturity rate of an eight-year-old, our darling protagonist included.
There was really not one character who acted their age. Well, maybe the dad character. But that’s it.
5) Have a Ridiculous Plot Twist:
You think a bad dye job and some contacts can hide your ethnicity?
It’s not only offensive but it reeks of potential body dysmorphia. What’s next skin bleaching?
I wouldn’t put it past this character who is trying everything, to change herself.
Even WASP-ing her name. Which really doesn’t make sense because I don’t think the school register is going to allow one to change their name.
4) Diversity ‘Smersity (hide your culture because-hey, no one wants to read about someone who lives a different life):
I’m sorry, I get that this is a book about finding yourself but the culture (okay, if we’re really going to be honest it’s more like religion) shaming is ridiculous. Every time I hear Jamie say something about how her background is lame, I want to deck her.
Seriously, why are you shaming yourself for your beliefs?
While her father is a sexist jerk, I do think he is (in his own warped way) trying to do right by his family.
And the whole…ooh, I’m embarrassed to go out with my sister because she wears a head scarf.
Sydney is a very large city, I’m sure there are lots of people who wear the hijab there. It’s really not that big of a deal. I know, there were people wearing the head scarf the other day I went to Marshall’s and no one acted like the apocalypse was coming.
3) Use Culture Stereotypes:
For a book that’s suppose to be about breaking cultural and religious stereotypes this book does nothing of the sorts.
Before I dive into this topic deeper, I want to state that Abdel-Fattah sort of has a problem defining the differences between culture and religion and it is seen throughout the book.
Yes, I get that religion plays a big part into culture but t does not define culture. Much like culture does not define religion, however the two seem to be meshed up into one thing in the book and it just comes off being really weird.
Now, for the stereotypes. We are told that Jamie and her family do not fit the stereotypes that are discussed in the book. But low and behold every stereotype that’s mentioned and you can put a check mark that Jamie and her family hit the bill.
Why do this Abdel-Fattah. Why?
Oh, you try to make Jamie’s family different by having her cab driver father really have a doctoral degree,but he never uses it because he doesn’t want to move to the country.
Okay, then why get a degree that requires you to live in the country if you don’t want to live in a country?
Once again, why reinforce the stereotypes?
I don’t know how Australia’s immigration system works, but in the US, it’s actually very hard for low wage workers to get into the country legally. Just saying…
2) Try to be Hip and Make an Ass of Yourself:
Just because you use “Yo” at the beginning of a lame poem does not make it a rap.
Also, I get that this book was published in 2006, but being a teen at that time I could tell you that we would’ve considered that rap lame too.
1) Sexism, Sexism, Sexism:
This is what really killed this one for me. Oh, the culture stereotypes and improper handling of racism was bad enough, but the way sexism was handled.
Wow, just wow.
According to this book, I should just deal with the fact that men are going to treat me differently because I have lady parts and therefore I can not have a semblance of my own life because I’ll ruin my virtue.
Yes, the stupid virginity myth rears it’s ugly head in this book and is repeated over and over again by the main character’s over protective father.
But we’re told, by other characters in the book, that he’s just a concerned parent and that having a sexist parent is not as bad as having a cheater for a parent.
Um, both are bad. But in completely different ways. Trying to compare the two of them is like comparing apples and oranges. I don’t know why sexism was so underscored in this book.
It is an issue that really needs to be dealt with and is just not something we have to deal with.
Overall Rating: I DNF’d this one. Obviously. What should’ve been a great book about exploring another culture and religion, turned out to be probably one of the worst books I’ve read this quarter. I was raging by the fourth page.