Saturday, June 19, 2010

Skunk Girl by Sheba Karim

Skunk Girl by Sheba Karim
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Released: March 31, 2009
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 240
Source: Library

I usually write my own descriptions, but I liked the one on the inside cover so much that I decided to use it instead of my own.

If Nina Khan were to rate herself on the unofficial Pakistani prestige point system - the one she's sure all the aunties and uncles use to determine the most attractive marriage prospects for their children - her scoring might go something like this:
+2 points for getting excellent grades
-3 points for failing to live up to expectations set by genius older sister
+4 points for dutifully obeying her parents and never, ever going to parties, no matter how antisocial that makes her seem to everyone at Deer Hook High
-1 point for harboring secret jealousy of her best friends, who are allowed to date like normal teenagers
+2 points for never drinking an alcoholic beverage
-10 points for obsessing about Asher Richelli, who talks to Nina like she's not a freak at all, even though he knows that she has a disturbing line of hair running down her back

I'm actually going to start this review by telling you a little bit about me. Just trust me and go with it. I read lots of blogs, but I very seldom read through the actual reviews. I hate being spoiled and even though most bloggers give adequate spoiler warnings, I'd rather be completely surprised when I pick up a book. So, you will often hear see me say that I had no idea what a book was about before picking it up. I also never go to the library with a list. I go, pick up any new books I have on hold, and browse the shelves looking for something to catch my eye. This is how I found Skunk Girl. I didn't remember who had read it, what it was about, or if it was even good for that matter. I recognized it, laughed at the inside cover, and placed it in my bag. I was in no real hurry to read it since I had so many other goodies in my pile, but when I finally did, boy was I surprised.

Nina Khan just wants to be a normal teenager, except she's kind of a freak. She's hairy, Muslim, and under lockdown by her very strict, Pakistani parents. Luckily for her though, her American friends love her anyway. Nina is used to the social restrictions her family believes in; however, when cutie Asher Richelli starts paying her attention, she is determined to break away. In the end Nina learns that her family really isn't that bad and that some of the things she wished for are overrated.

I loved Nina's story. She was such a diverse character! I know, I know - it's mostly because she is a person of color with a completely different culture than my own, but I had to say it. Nina's narrative takes us straight into her head and lets us see, and feel, and think the things that she is seeing, and feeling, and thinking. Feeling so close to a character is always a good thing in my book, and her witty humor only added to my love for this debut novel. I hear Karim is working on a new book, and I cannot wait to read it.

I think it is so important for stories like Nina's to be told. Please check out Reading in Color and S. Krishna's Books if you aren't already familiar. Both of these blogs feature books by and/or about people of color, and both hold challenges with tons of suggestions for books like Skunk Girl.


  1. i've been dieing to read this book and now i just want to read it all the more- great review :)

  2. Cute blog...I found you at Parajunkees bloghop....:D

  3. The Skunk Girl- Nina, the protagonist has a perfect teenage life...doubts about her looks, pubic hair being her crisis, one-sided crush on a batchmate...isn't it a perfect teenage scene. Well, Sheba Karim has been commendable in her debut novel, where she does justice to the young adult genre of writing.


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