More Than Just a Pretty Face

Syed M. Masood. Little, Brown, $17.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-3164-9235-5
Masood’s debut spotlights the ever-optimistic 19-year-old Danyal Jilani, a confident Pakistani American aspiring chef who has long harbored a crush on classmate Kaval Sabsvari, his best friend Sohrab’s twin sister. When he is nominated for his school’s Renaissance Man competition, a cutthroat academic championship with a $5,000 prize, Danyal seizes the opportunity to boost his subpar grades and spend more time with Kaval, who offers to help. Danyal’s topic of Winston Churchill leads him to enlist the assistance of Bisma Akram, 19, originally introduced to him as a potential prospect for an arranged marriage. Her complicated relationship with her own family forges a growing bond between them; Danyal’s realization that Kaval disdains his atypical career aspirations, while Bisma supports them, strengthens their connection. The novel features a humorous exploration of its characters’ desi backgrounds, touching upon familial and religious expectations. Though supporting characters lack nuance—Sohrab’s growing devotion to Islam, for example, correlates with an increasingly limited viewpoint—Danyal develops into a more mature and endearing protagonist as he researches colonialism’s horrors. Throughout, his vivid narration remains charmingly relatable. Ages 14–up. Agent: Melissa Edwards, Stonesong. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 06/18/2020
Release date: 08/04/2020
Genre: Children's
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-316-49236-2
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