Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know

Samira Ahmed. Soho Teen, $18.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-61695-989-0
When 17-year-old Khayyam Maquet (named after Persian poet Omar Khayyam) and university student Alexandre Dumas (named after the French writer, his ancestor), meet by apparent coincidence in Paris one August day, they discover they share a common goal: finding a connection between the 19th-century Dumas and painter Eugène Delacroix. Visiting from Chicago, Khayyam, who is French, Indian, American, and Muslim, wants to jump-start her future as an art historian; Alexandre declares that he wants to preserve his family’s legacy. Short, interspersed sections told by 19th-century Leila, the “enslaved harem girl” whom Khayyam believes the original Dumas loved, and who may have inspired both a poem by Byron and a painting by Delacroix, build a suspenseful secondary story line. The book’s premise is promising, the Parisian setting enticing, and the dialogue sharply paced. In both scholarship and romance, Khayyam is consistently—if somewhat overtly—cued: she’s focused on her professional future, her anger at the way women’s stories are elided, and her drive to right that wrong. While the plot development can be hard to follow, punctuated by Khayyam’s confusion about a love interest at home and her feelings for Alexandre, Ahmed’s (Internment) story succeeds in exploring historical themes of prejudice and who tells whose stories while offering a multi- faceted blend of contemporary and historical intrigue. Ages 14–up. Agent: Joanna Volpe, New Leaf Literary. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 03/05/2020
Release date: 04/07/2020
Genre: Children's
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