This book has a lot going for it. It is written in the first person and Anisa, the main character, has one of the strongest voices I’ve read. I can’t recall being taken out of the story or not feeling like a close friend was confiding a big, secret story in me. I really like the author’s writing style and the characters feel well developed to me. The essence of the book, the story of The Centre, was such a compelling, unique, engrossing read that I feel could have been supported by better material. The first half of the book felt like a strong beginning to an exciting adventure I couldn’t wait to go on and I loved the reveal at the end.
Despite the immense enjoyment I felt reading the first 75% of the book and how much I liked the reveal, there were huge issues for me. There are many things mentioned in what I assume to be Urdu with no explanation and I have no idea what they are. If you don’t have knowledge of the language or culture you will miss out on parts of the book. So I felt left out of several of the small details that gives this book its unique character. This, along with the parts of Anisa and her friends making fun of white people, makes it seem like the author doesn’t want white people to read this book. Cool.
I can’t quote from this book because I’m reviewing an advanced copy, but there are many conflicting thoughts or conversations that made Anisa (and the writing) unreliable. Not unusual for first person, but it made the story a little less clear to me. In one part Anisa and her friend talk about her boyfriend being too woke, or an insincere kind of woke, and the way they talk about it makes me think the author is being tongue-in-cheek about this particular political topic, but then there are pro-woke conversations in other parts. And the reveal is very controversial, but there’s a part where Anisa is trying to justify it to herself and it seems very convincing, which makes her even more unreliable to me. Also, Anisa and Naima, her best friend, talk a lot of talk about being strong, modern feminists throughout the book only for both of them to completely fall off that wagon by the end of the book. I don’t even consider myself a feminist and their actions repel me.
In short, I loved the overarching story about The Centre but the political, social, and personal-to-Anisa parts ruined an otherwise interesting and unique idea.
I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.