cover image Mariam Sharma Hits the Road

Mariam Sharma Hits the Road

Sheba Karim. HarperTeen, $18.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-244573-5

Mariam, Ghazala, and Umar drive from New Jersey to New Orleans, looking for escape, fun, and togetherness. They find those things, as well as road trip staples, such as junk food and soul-searching, and—because they’re Pakistani-American—prejudice and Islamophobia. Karim (That Thing We Call a Heart) effectively gets at the double difficulty of the characters being seen as outsiders even as their families consider them too assimilated. Beautiful Ghaz’s family disowns her because she appeared in an ad they consider indecent; Umar, who’s gay and a practicing Muslim, can’t imagine a life that allows him to be both. Mariam has a good relationship with her mother, though she wonders whether her commitment issues come from the father she barely knew. But since Mariam and Ghaz are back from their first year at college and Umar is about to start, they at least have each other. With warmth and intimacy, Karim explores the bond among the three protagonists, as well as their individual identity conflicts. The story is focused on the immediate circumstances and concerns; as a result, the characters’ psychological development is modest, yet meaningful. Ages 13–up.[em] (June) [/em]