Review—Sadia by Colleen Nelson


This YA novel is a heart-warming story about a group of female Muslim freshmen in a Canadian high school. Sadia, Nazreen, and Amira are busy figuring out how they fit into the world. The novel is told from Sadia’s point of view: she is strong, empathetic, and loves basketball. The rules for the tournament might mean she might not get to play in her hijab, and she doesn’t want to take it off. Nazreen is Sadia’s best friend and seems to be growing apart from her—hanging out with a new friend, constantly talking about boys, and de-jabbing at school. The new girl Amira, has just arrived as a refugee from Syria, and Sadia is trying to help her adjust. Sadia is about making friends and banding together to bring about social change. By the end of the story, all of the characters are working to change the world.

I was a little nervous about this book since it is not an #ownvoices book (Nelson is white.) But overall, it was done really well. I like the way hijab is described as a spiritual practice, and not about the male gaze. It was a little annoying how many times “modesty” was mentioned in relation to hijab, and how few times God was (zero). I don’t think it should be against the YA “rules” to mention God. Even with “spirituality” as a stand-in for God, I find any discussion of hijab without mentioning God slightly ridiculous.

I loved reading about a female Muslim protagonist who is really good at sports. I didn’t know anything about basketball before reading this, but I learned a lot from Nelson’s descriptions of games, which were fun and fast-paced. I love how Sadia’s team becomes a group of *real* friends—-their relationship was so awesome that I felt it was slightly unrealistic, but perhaps that’s just my own personal experience in high school rearing its ugly head.  

Like most YA and middle grade novels that want to tie themselves up neatly at the end of the book, I found a few of the ends a little too neatly tucked in. Sadia’s brother, Aazim has a great, really resonant subplot that was a little unrealistic in its handling throughout the novel, and downright unbelievable in its conclusion.

The background that ties the whole novel together is the work these kids do for their Global Studies teacher, Mr. Letner. He is the coolest teacher ever. His Give a Kid a Camera project and the passion projects that grow out of them reveal a side of high school that I certainly missed out on but am happy to see represented in fiction.  

While this book is written about a high school freshman and labelled as YA, it is tamer than other YA novels, and I would recommend it for both YA and middle grade readers.

Sadia comes out from Dundurn on February 27, and you can pre-order a copy here.

Thanks to NetGalley and Dundurn for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

4 thoughts on “Review—Sadia by Colleen Nelson

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