'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.' - author Jackie French

Friday, 26 August 2016

Review: When Michael Met Mina

When Michael and Mina meet, they are standing on opposite sides of the debate at a rally for refugees. Michael can’t believe it when the beautiful girl from the rally turns up as a new student at his school soon after the event. Unfortunately, as an Afghani refugee, Mina has no time for Michael’s views on closing Australia’s borders, especially when she discovers Michael’s father is the head of a new political party called ‘Aussie Values’ which promotes religious intolerance.

Can Michael and Mina overcome their differences to find some common ground?

I love books that start conversations and Randa Abdel-Fattah’s When Michael Met Mina certainly offers plenty of opportunities to springboard discussions about hot topics such as refugees, racism, islamophobia, religious intolerance, political activism, and social justice. Through the interactions of Michael and Mina, readers are given insight into the impact of racial and religious intolerance on everyday families and the various influences that can impact on how we view political and social issues.

The social justice message of this novel is unsurprisingly direct. Mina and her family present a clear picture of a hardworking refugee family looking for the opportunity for a new start in Australia. The message presented by Michael’s family is a little more complex. Michael’s parents are presented in a sympathetic way, despite their involvement with a political party that is fundamentally racist and intolerant of religious diversity. The good intentions and intelligence of Michael’s parents are clearly presented, although the flaws in their arguments and the ease with which their ideals can be distorted by those with a desire to be disruptive are also shown.

For me, a highlight of this story was Michael’s personal journey as he realises that he has the ability to step away from his parents’ views and form his own opinions on issues that are important to him. His love and respect for his parents is clear, yet he learns that this doesn’t prevent him from disagreeing with their views and making a stand for the issues that are important to him. Michael’s growing awareness of himself as an individual, rather than extension of his parents, is a wonderful demonstration of the progression from dependent child to independent young adult on an intellectual level.

With a combination of social justice issues, family dramas, humour and a touch of romance, When Michael Met Mina is a novel that challenges teens to not only think about significant social issues, but also to consider who they are allowing to influence their opinions and how proactive they are in ensuring their opinions are their own, not second-hand opinions from their parents and friends. A great novel about friendship, community and the influences that impact how we see ourselves and others.

Title: When Michael Met Mina
Author: Randa Abdel-Fattah
Publisher: Pan Macmillan, $18.99 RRP
Publication Date: 28 June 2016
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781743534977
For ages: 13+
Type: Young Adult Fiction

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