Not the Girls You’re Looking For, Aminah Mae Safi. Feiwel & Friends. ISBN: 9781250151810.
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.
**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC in exchange for an honest review!
It took me awhile to start enjoying this book. I’m used to books that grab my attention right away, but this book was a slow burn for me. I didn’t like the main character, I had no idea where the plot was going, and it seemed to be repetitive. But as I continued reading, I started to become invested in Lulu and her struggles. She doesn’t know where she fits in, being half American and half Arab, so she puts up defenses that made her annoying to me at first. But as the book progressed, we begin to understand more and more why she behaves in such self-destructive ways, and this character development helped compensate for the lack of obvious plot.
A lot of what I liked from this book comes from Lulu’s character development. I liked the ways Lulu learned to appreciate her family and her “extended” family. I liked how she learned more about herself through her challenges. I liked that the romance wasn’t the focal point of the story, and Lulu still learned more about where she belonged without depending on James to do it for her. Like most teens, Lulu acts in ways she doesn’t quite understand. Not knowing when to stop talking, when to let her walls down, or when she needs to admit when she was wrong all make her real and relatable. And though I don’t understand what it feels like to be torn between two cultures, I do understand what it feels like to feel out of place sometimes. I think we have all felt that, and the author did a great job of using this to connect the reader to Lulu. Ironically, I didn’t like Lulu at all in the beginning, but she ended up being the reason I ended up enjoying the book like I did.
The reason I can’t give this book more than 3 stars is because it just didn’t grab me. I was confused at the beginning, not knowing where the book was going and not having any real interest in the characters. Usually when books start like this, I can relate to something and hold on to that until the plot catches me. But I didn’t relate to the characters and their dynamic with one another and I didn’t relate to the setting, so I was left waiting for something to happen to finally engage me. There wasn’t really a point where I was fully invested, but a gradual change did happen that kept me reading.
I’m glad the I finished the book. I loved “watching” Lulu grow and learn more about herself. I really admire how she decided when and with whom she felt comfortable with her more vulnerable self. The themes of cultural disconnect were interesting for me to read, particularly since I don’t experience that personally. I enjoyed seeing all the little things add up to help Lulu grow and learn from her mistakes (of which she has made many, and that makes her even more admirable). Though the book didn’t grab me right away, it did grow on me, and I ended up enjoying reading about Lulu and her struggles with her family, tradition, friends, and herself.