Not the Girls You're Looking For by Aminah Mae Safi
Lulu Saad doesn't need your advice, thank you very much. She's got her three best friends and nothing can stop her from conquering the known world. Sure, for half a minute she thought she’d nearly drowned a cute guy at a party, but he was totally faking it. And fine, yes, she caused a scene during Ramadan. It's all under control. Ish.
Except maybe this time she’s done a little more damage than she realizes. And if Lulu can't find her way out of this mess soon, she'll have to do more than repair friendships, family alliances, and wet clothing. She'll have to go looking for herself.
My expectations for Not the Girls You’re Looking For were so high, they were halfway to the moon. I can’t explain it. I think it was the title – a subtle nod to Obi Wan Kenobi and “These are not the droids you’re looking for.”
It’s a stupid reason to latch on to a book, but it’s my reason and it happened.
Not the Girls You’re Looking For has nothing to do with Star Wars by the way. It’s a contemporary romance (ish?) with a Muslim main character who actually observes the Muslim holidays. Written by a Muslim author. I can’t really speak to whether or not this is good rep, as my experience in Islamic culture is incredibly limited. It felt good to me, very respectful, with an underlying importance to family. but Lulu fasts through Ramadan there is an aside to respect Ashura as well. Lulu is queen at saying the wrong thing – she uses her words as a shield and pushes away people when she’s upset, and has a difficult time respecting the lines between her family members. As such, she creates a huge mess, driving barriers between her friends and extended family until she finds herself alone.
Except, she’s not as alone as she thinks she is, and alongside unexpected allies and new friends, she pulls her life back together.
And I loved Lulu.
She’s brash, she’s witty, she quotes movies I love with effortless ease. She’s unabashedly herself, even when it tears her life into smithereens. She almost always says the wrong thing, and she knows it, and she kicks herself for it. This book is about Lulu’s downfall and her story of climbing back up out of the hole she has dug for herself. It’s a slow arc, and you’ve got to be in it for the love of the characters or the world, because there is no big twisty ending. You see the growth of her as a character and the complexities of her relationships and the gentle arc of her love and frustration for her heritage in a mixed family.
The bits of this book I loved the most were in the details. Lulu and Matt sitting on the hood of her car eating beignets. The Saad family watching Ancient Aliens. Emma and Lulu’s phone conversation. Lulu and her dad going for a milkshake. Her mother calling her “little cat”. The scene where Lulu is about to have an intimate encounter and flips is and says “no” was such a big moment for me – like, ladies, have you ever felt that way? Where you’re going to do something and you realize it’s wrong and you really don’t want it? It’s like Aminah Mae Safi is saying, “I hear you, and you can say no. You owe him nothing.” Ten years ago, that conversation would never have happened, and you still don’t see it in books? It was something I needed to read because our culture is only just starting to shift into a greater respect for how the woman feels at all times in the encounter.
I really dig Aminah Mae Safi’s writing style. This book fit me perfectly, and I’m really looking forward to her second book next June.
Not The Girls You’re Looking For Goes to the Gallery
I adored this book, truly. I would read it again. Where I’m at in my life right now, it was so comforting to read Lulu’s story. Like Lulu, I’m one of those people in real life who says the wrong thing at the wrong time and rather than humbly retracting things, I’m the girl who pridefully stews over the words I’ve said and lets it eat me up inside. Not a lot of YA protagonists are that girl – most protagonists are a little more squeaky clean. I loved this about her and I loved falling into this story and going, yes, oh my gosh, I’ve done that stupid thing. It made this book so real. I really liked it, and I will read it again.