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Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah

This book is about 16 year old Amal, a Palestinian-Australian-Muslim girl who wears a hijab during her Year 11 in an Australian high school.

The teenage years are tough enough with acne problems, boys, sex, studies and the future WITHOUT the complications of Amal’s faith.

I come from Muslim country where 50% of the 30 million population are Muslim (Moslem).

Since Islam is the official religion in Malaysia, almost every Muslim teenage girl, college student and adult woman wears a head scarf or hijab. Even 3 year old little girls are “encouraged” to wear a head scarf.

For Amal in Does My Head Look Big In This?, she is a minority Muslim in a Western country.

Personal identity is one of the themes in the novel e.g. her touching experience with an anti-Muslim radio programme on the public bus, with the cool crowd in school, while applying for a part-time job and the day the Sept 11 news broke out in Australia.


Her experiences also show the reader the extent of the problems Muslims face in their daily life. For example, Amal’s beautiful and beautiful friend, Leila’s daily disputes with her ultra-traditional Muslim mother illustrates the Muslim woman’s struggle for education, career and love within their religion and culture.

Together with another Muslim friend, Yasmeen, Amal tries to keep Leila’s spirits up each time she comes up against her mother’s extremist views on education, work and marriage. While the girls laugh over Leila’s mother’s beliefs, they don’t realize how serious her mother is until she makes a decision that affects Leila’s bright future as a bright, teenage girl.

The books also looks at cross-cultural friendships through Amal’s Muslim friends from her hidayah (Muslim school) and her “secular” school friends, Eileen, a Japanese; Simone, a white Aussie. Her best friend, is actually a Jew named Josh.

At first, Amal restricts discussions on her faith to her Muslim friends and keeps to “secular” topics with her school friends. Later, she realizes that she didn’t have to segregate her friends that way after all.

The author aims to write a book that “allowed readers to enter the world of the average Muslim teenage girl and see past the headlines and stereotypes; to realize that she was experiencing the same dramas and challenges of adolescence as her non-Muslim peers”.

I find that the book explored themes similar to Melina Marchetta’s “Looking for Alibrandi” e.g.:

  • identity, prejudice,
  • peer pressure,
  • relationships and
  • an unusual friendship with an elderly person who reveals her past (Amal’s Greek neighbour, Mrs. Vaselli reminds me strongly of Josie Alibrandi’s Nonna).

While Amal is as intelligent as Josie, I personally don’t find her as strong a character. Personally, I find that she’s too self-conscious.

What I like best about the book is Amal’s sincerity. When she puts on the hijab, she finally realizes that she just has to act like a normal Year 11 student going on to Year 12 – the only thing different is her attire. She is a hijabster 🙂

If you’re looking for a book with a multicultural theme for teenagers, I would recommend this book to teenagers. Get a copy from Amazon!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Josette April 6, 2008, 12:08 pm

    I like to read Australian books! This book is on my shelf now…can’t wait to read it. Great review! Happy Reading!

  • Kit April 23, 2008, 3:41 pm

    Josette – That’s great as I discovered Australian literature when I was assigned to teach the New South Wales Higher School Certificate. I’ll be posting other books I’d read with my students. See you back here!

  • Josette June 25, 2008, 1:30 pm

    Hi, I’m back here and I finished reading this book last night!

    I like how sarcastic Amal can be at times when she’s defending herself against Tia’s teasing. My favourite characters would be Josh and Mrs. Vaselli. Josh for speaking the truth out loud and clear and Mrs. Vaselli for her grumpiness. Haha!

    Here’s my review of this book. 😀

  • Kit June 25, 2008, 9:53 pm

    Yeah, I like Josh and Mrs. Vaselli but Uncle “Joe” and Aunt “Mandy” had me laughing each time they showed up in the book…

  • layan January 2, 2009, 4:29 am

    is the story (does mt head look big in this) fiction or none fiction

    this book is grate to read it is one of my fevoret books ever.and i recomended it for 20 people

  • Kit January 2, 2009, 12:43 pm

    Layan – The book is fiction but the writer is a real Palestinian living in Australia. I’m glad you like reading the book and have recommended 20 people 🙂 I like it because it shows the beauty and challenges of the Muslim faith.

  • Tammy January 22, 2009, 7:41 pm

    I really wanna read it ,

  • Nor March 9, 2009, 10:31 pm

    I MUST get this book..(hope it’s available in KL, most definitely cannot get in Kota Baru,huhu….)
    Great review indeed!!

  • Kit March 9, 2009, 10:55 pm

    Tammy & Nor – Try Amazon? You can click on my links above – they deliver anywhere in the world 🙂

  • Hahahahahannah!!! May 2, 2009, 1:34 pm

    I finished reading this book this morning and I loved it. It was so realistic about teenage life…

  • Kit May 4, 2009, 8:53 pm

    Hahahahahannah!!! – It’s a great read, isn’t it? I love young adult books too 🙂

  • Priya October 4, 2009, 11:08 am

    I really enjoyed this book 🙂

  • Kit October 10, 2009, 4:50 am

    Priya – Isn’t it nice to enjoy a book you started reading?

  • muslim girl February 7, 2010, 6:09 am

    Hi!I am a Turkish girl.I read the book and I enjoyed : ) The book is realistic and enjoyable 🙂 Is there other book Randa abdel-fettah?

  • Kit March 2, 2010, 8:10 am

    Muslim Girl – Nice to hear from someone all the way from Turkey!

    I’ve been really busy the past few months that I haven’t had time to check out Randa’s other books.

  • teacherreader August 27, 2010, 12:53 am

    i read this book in high school then had to read it again at work to make sure it was apropriate for m students.i knew if i said no to them i was being hypocritical as i loved it and learnt so much from it.was an inspiration to my girls.

  • Kit October 11, 2010, 9:04 am

    teacherreader – That’s great! I do miss teaching because I got to know a lot of new books from my students’ reading list.

    How old are your students? And where do you teach? Be nice to know how students from various parts of the world reacted to the book…

  • Hiba - Jordan October 30, 2010, 10:04 pm

    How can i get this book ? 🙁

  • kathy Repin December 5, 2010, 3:06 pm

    I read this book and thoroughly enjoyed it too. I’m a 50+ woman but I still enjoy young adult books. Amal is a great character and I love her! I like your review!

  • Kit December 22, 2010, 9:08 am

    Hiba – Try searching on the Amazon widget at the top of my blog? I believe they ship everywhere around the world now.

    kathy Repin – Age is just a number 😉 Seriously because I have 2 fabulous friends who are 50+ and I know one AMAZING lady who is nearly 70. Nice to “meet” someone else who likes young adult books too 😀