Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Good Daughter by Amra Pajalic

Fifteen-year-old Sabiha has a lot to deal with: her mother’s mental health issues, her interfering aunt, her mother’s new boyfriend, her live-in grandfather and his chess buddy, not to mention her arrogant cousin Adnan. They all want to marry her off, have her become a strict Muslim and speak Bosnian.

And Sabiha’s friends are not always friendly. She gets bullied by girlfriends and is anxious about boyfriends, when she just wants to fit in. But two boys, Brian and Jesse, become the allies of this fierce and funny girl.

The Good Daughter is a coming-of-age novel written with sensitivity and humour. It confronts head-on the problems of cultural identity in the day-to-day lives of teenagers. Amra Pajalic has a wonderful ear for idiomatic dialogue and the dramatic moment.
(from goodreads)

Mate, Amra Pajalic's Aussie YA novel was such a good read.

I am always hesitant to compare novels but in this case I think a comparison is helpful to give you a good feel for the vibe and quality of the novel. When I think about The Good Daughter it is easy to compare it to Melina Marchetta's Looking for Alibrandi and Randa Abdel-Fattah's Ten Things I Hate About Me

It's not just because these novels also feature a non-Caucasian protagonist or a lively multi-cultural cast ~ it is the similarities in how Pajalic manages to thrust you completely into to characters lives and community with such ease and effortless humour.

I found it a bit ironic that the novel is titled 'The Good Daughter' as Sabiha struggles in her role of being a good daughter. She is sassy and often lets her mouth run ahead of her. She's flouncy and feisty and angsty and a perfect lead character ~ flawed and ache-y and confused and fiery all with a generous heart and a conflicted soul. She is a lot of fun. She had me grinning and also cringing ~ she's a whole array of emotions and Pajalic nails writing for teens ~ it was not condescending in any way, it felt like a real teen voice tearing through the pages.

Plot wise I was SOLD. I am always always fond of books that do not feature a OMG inciting incident to create conflict. Instead the conflict is largely internal and driven by the actions of all the people in Sabiha's life. It's about school and family and crushes and being torn between her Bosnian community and wanting to be like every other average Aussie. It's about identity and belonging and growing up.   

Some stuff:

  • Sabiha's mum had bipolar and I LOVED how it was represented in this book. She did an honest and amazing job (speaking from someone who has close personal experience with bipolar). It was not glamourised or used as a plot device to create dramatic conflict.
  • Sabiha's cousin Adnan. How funny is he? I really loved the guy. OH ~ and he gets on 'The Price is Right' with Larry Emdur. OMG, I was killing myself laughing.
  • I loved just how Australian this novel was. It is so easy to relate and settle into a book when the cultural references are about our TV shows and our celebs and our current events, etc. This is a novel that will resonate with Aussie teens.
  • I loved all the little details and funny dialogue. Stuff like Sabiha making a joke about Jesse having copies of the Twilight saga hidden under his bed :D
  • It is set in Melbourne. What is it with all these awesome Aussie characters roaming around the streets of Melbourne?

Recommended: The thing about this novel is it is just brimming with vitality. It's poignant and truly grin-worthy funny and absolutely heart-felt. Good good stuff. 

Amra Pajalic's site
The Good Daugther @ goodreads


  1. Oh yay, so glad you enjoyed this one Nomes :)

  2. Thanks for the recommendation. I've just requested this one from the library. :) I do love a good Australian read.

  3. I love the cultural identity aspect of this book. At school we have so many kids who are trying to adjust to not only being in a new school but who are trying to fit into a new school culture as well as having to deal with parents who are struggling to maintain their own culture. This creates everyday conflicts for the kids, and I think this books sounds like it deals with this same idea with humor and honesty. Just another of the many Aussie titles I hope to get my hands on one day. Thanks Nomes.

  4. Is there no end to the fantastic Aussie books? My TBR seems to expand every time I visit your blog, Nomes :D
    Thanks for another great recommendation1

  5. Brilliant review Nomes! This one sounds really fun (and so Aussie! I'd love to see how the Price is Right bits turned out). I'm not much for Australian Contemporary (yet... you might just convert me!) but this one sounds like a really fun and down to Earth read.

  6. I think I need to move to Australia :) This one sounds great and anything you can compare to a MM book gets instantly added to my TBR list.

    Thanks for the review

  7. I <3 funny! I always want to compare books to other books as well!

  8. This sounds like a great cultural read!! I'll have to see if it's available in the US. Lovely review, again. :)

  9. I've only read one book where one of the characters had bipolar, and I thought it was so interesting to get an insight on it, so this definitely sounds like an interesting book to me. Thanks for the review, I might check it out :).

  10. This one sounds great!
    I wouldn't have guessed it from the cover but I loved your review.

    I'm going to try to find this one - It's Aussie, isn't it?

  11. This sounds awesome.

    And I am wondering too why all our books seem to be set in Melbourne lately (maybe because it is a pretty city). I want some Brissie books :)

  12. Australian books need to be released here in the US more often. All the books you point out sound so amazing yet I can't read any of them. <3


Thanks for the commenty love :)