When Michael Met Mina by Randa Abdel-Fattah
Published by Pan Macmillan Australia on July 28th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
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Before Mina, my life was like a completed jigsaw puzzle but Mina has pushed the puzzle onto the floor. I have to start all over again, figuring out where the pieces go.
When Michael meets Mina, they are at a rally for refugees - standing on opposite sides.
Mina fled Afghanistan with her mother via a refugee camp, a leaky boat and a detention centre.
Michael's parents have founded a new political party called Aussie Values.
They want to stop the boats. Mina wants to stop the hate.
When Mina wins a scholarship to Michael's private school, their lives crash together blindingly.
A novel for anyone who wants to fight for love, and against injustice.
If there is one Aussie YA book that you will pick up, let it be When Michael Met Mina.
The way it addresses social commentary and current political issues about border control, refugees and racism has never been more important.
The hardships that refugees face when they try and start a new life away from their home country.
The racist values that people can hold, while hiding behind a front of “protecting our values” and “encouraging healthy debates”.
What some families have given up just to provide a brighter future for the next generation.
It’s easy to say these issues don’t affect you, but what the book does is present real life for so many people living in Australia today.
All of this is written in such an engaging, relatable way, through two teenagers who have no choice but to be swept up in their family’s values. Michael, from a conversative Aussie Values political party and Mina, an Afghani teenager who stands up for her family’s rights.
Michael goes through lots of character development in the story. Working in a telemarketing job, being friends with a jerk, and spouting off his dad’s values without really knowing what they meant – it’s obvious he doesn’t know who he is at the start. Meeting Mina gave him the push to not only work out who he was, but also who he wanted to be. While his character arc was a bit too forced, I loved how he came to terms with his decisions in the end and how he stood strongly by them.
Mina on the other hand, is fiesty, independent and hard working. After coming to Australia by boat from Afghanistan, she’s not afraid to show her peers how much she deserves to be there. I liked how she was outspoken about her beliefs and how she called people out for their racist/sexist comments. I know what it’s like to have the weight of high expectations placed upon you, and Mina definitely had a lot on her shoulders. I did feel like she acted a bit too mature for her age, especially with the slight PTSD she had in her past. There’s a lot more that could’ve been explored here, including the sense of not belonging, the emotion that could come with what she went through and more about Afghani culture.
When we arrived in this country we had to learn the differences of this new place and we also had to learn that for everybody, we are the difference. I think, Mina, there is something the majority wants us to do in order to be fully accepted, but they never tell us what it is.
I love forbidden romances, especially with the fresh modern take on it here. There was a bit of insta-love though – within the first few pages, Michael has already fallen for Mina even before they met. Personally I don’t think I could ever fall for someone who was so directly opposed towards my own strong beliefs and livelihood. I’m not quite sure what made Mina fall for Michael, aside from his good looks and his ambivalent character.
Despite the issues I had with Mina’s character and the insta-love at the start, the social commentary and the book’s message is thought-provoking and reflects our world today. I love the confidence it took for the author to write about these issues, and how it addressed that gray area of racism and misunderstanding. Through Michael’s indecision and Mina’s passion, I really felt a lot for their ordeals and my heart ached at what they both had to go through at times.
When Michael Met Mina is such an important book that I think everyone should read, presenting both sides to the refugee debate in Australia without being preachy. There are so many important themes that the book addresses, and it’s written in an extremely engaging and modern way.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Thanks Pan Macmillan Australia for sending me a review copy!
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