The Seville Secret is the second installment in the Ayesha Dean middle grade series by Melati Lum. It follows Ayesha, a hijabi Australian teenager, as she travels and solves mysteries with her friends.
In The Seville Secret, Ayesha goes with friends Jess and Sara and her Uncle David to Spain. He has business to attend to while the girls go on holiday. On the plane, they meet Kareem, who is going to Spain to look for his grandfather, who disappeared while studying some ancient jewels. Ayesha offers to help, and adventure ensues.
While searching through Kareem’s grandfather’s things, they come across a very old diary. The diary was written during the Spanish Inquisition, and it means that readers are treated to two stories: the sixteenth century tale of a secret Muslim and his relationship to a famous necklace, as well as the mystery of what happened to Kareem’s grandfather.
This middle grade novel is both a mystery and an adventure story; there are not only museums and ruins but also fights with bad guys and narrow escapes. This is the kind of book where a child protagonist can use her martial arts skills to get a bad guy to let go of get best friend, where the police share information about an ongoing investigation with a minor, and where she asks the defective with a straight face if there’s anything she can do to help.
The Seville Secret is a really fun read and I especially recommend it to parents looking for more wholesome literature for their kids. Ayesha Dean is such a refreshing character. She is independent and confident: I love that she knows that she wants to be a detective, and she takes herself seriously, training in martial arts. She also owns her faith and her hijab, despite being the only Muslim in her house. She takes time out of her day to pray, even while on her adventures. She knows what she wants, and she’s not afraid to go after it. While this book will be especially meaningful to Muslim readers, I can see middle grade readers of all genders and faith backgrounds enjoying this story.
I received an eARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.