|Publisher||Macmillan Children's Books|
|Date Published||25 January 2018|
I Am Thunder
Fifteen-year-old Muzna wants to be a writer. Her Pakistani-born parents want her to be a doctor. When the hottest boy in her new school starts to pay attention to her, Muzna can’t believe her luck, but all good things come at a price.
The family’s fortunes take an abrupt downturn when Muzna’s father loses his job and they must move to a different area and Muzna has to change schools. But to her surprise, she does make a new friend, and things start looking up when Arif Malik, the hottest boy in the school, takes an interest in her. Muzna can’t believe her luck. She can’t tell her family, though, as getting to know Arif has also started to bring Muzna into more contact with Muslim beliefs, something her family have always shunned, believing it will make them the target for those who equate Islam with terrorism.
Muzna Saleen is a narrator who instantly springs to life on the page. She’s struggling to come to grips with being viewed as an outsider in British society, and suffering the usual crop of teen problems, such as bad skin and an excess of facial hair that knocks her confidence and makes her think that no boy will ever be interested in her. And controlling parents who would freak out if she was caught taking an interest in a boy don’t help. All this means Muzna is ripe for grooming into the more radical side of Islam.
The gradual, insidious way radicalisation can take someone completely unawares is amply demonstrated in Muhammad Khan’s searingly honest look at what it is to be a teenager struggling to find their own identity in a morass of competing pressures. The difference between Muslim beliefs and radical Islam is handled strongly but with sensitivity. The book is a timely reminder in an increasingly insular and intolerant Britain of how easy it is to creates divides in a community and push people into the hands of the many radicals keen to exploit feelings isolation and the need to belong.
I Am Thunder is a stunning debut written with confidence and a compelling voice. Khan uses his experiences as a secondary school teacher to good effect to produce a crop of believable teens and a strong story that never slackens its grip.
Reviewed 28 April 2018 by Linda Wilson