Review: The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Friday, March 16, 2018


Boy meets girl. Girl changes everything.

Michael likes to hang out with his friends and play with the latest graphic design software. His parents drag him to rallies held by their anti-immigrant group, which rails against the tide of refugees flooding the country. And it all makes sense to Michael.

Until Mina, a beautiful girl from the other side of the protest lines, shows up at his school, and turns out to be funny, smart—and a Muslim refugee from Afghanistan. Suddenly, his parents’ politics seem much more complicated.

Mina has had a long and dangerous journey fleeing her besieged home in Afghanistan, and now faces a frigid reception at her new prep school, where she is on scholarship. As tensions rise, lines are drawn. Michael has to decide where he stands. Mina has to protect herself and her family. Both have to choose what they want their world to look like.

This book wasn't on my radar... at all... and I'm so mad about this. As you know internet friends, this is a diversity blog, and when I talk about diversity and diverse books, I try not to preach or get super angry, or make people feel bad about themselves. People who don't understand or appreciate the importance of diversity in books aren't inherently evil, and be race and religion can cause such emotion, that can be easy to forget. I started this blog because as someone said to me (and a room full of people) yesterday, "diverse books can either be a mirror, or a window." Best quote ever! The Lines We Cross is both a mirror (well if you're a refugee, or a Muslim, or you can relate to their story from a racial or religious point of view), or a window. And here's why...

By far my favorite aspect of this book was the "window" aspect, so I'll be talking more about Michael. Michael was a normal kid, at a normal (although affluent) school, and jerk-ish friends but I guess that happens sometimes. He seems like a perfectly normal guy until you realize that his father is the creator of a group called Aussie Values, a group protest against certain types of refugees. Michael did that thing that a lot of children do, they take their parents words at face value. Michael's parents weren't evil KKK members. They didn't burn crosses on poeple's lawn, or spit on them, or physically attack them. They just had thoughts and feelings and spoke out about them. That being said, there were members of Aussie Values who did cross the line. For a nice chunk of the book, Michael parrots his parents, but... it's almost like he's mimicking them just for the sake of mimicking them, not because he actually cares one way or another. The more he and Mina debate in class about refugees and politics, the more Michael starts to think about Aussie Values, his parents values, and his personal values. When Michael sits down to do some research about refugees and Afganistan himself, an amazing thing happens... he's still confused. This stuff isn't always easy to understand, everything isn't always black and white, it's confusing and hard and heart breaking and ... a mess. However, Michael did know, that he could no longer support his parents and  Aussie Values.

This book is so well done. It shows just how hard to understand the topics of race, religion, and refugees are. It shows two "villains", Michael's parents, who aren't the typical villains. They're average people. They're the type of people who say "I'm not racist, but Hermione isn't suppose to be black." (Talking about The Cursed Child stage play.) Those people GENUINELY don't see that as a racist and upsetting comment. They don't understand why someone would feel taken aback hearing it. I lived with a person for 3 years who had that mindset. She isn't a horrible person. She isn't evil. She's a product of her upbringing and it's sad. When you can look at your black friend and say that you don't date black people because you just don't find them attractive, that's it's just not your preference, it's just sad.

ANYWAY, this book showed us a different kind of "villain", and I think we needed to see it.

Small spoiler
I wish Michael and Mina hadn't started dating. I honestly have a hard time imagining two people who butt heads over Mina's life and over her existence entering into a romantic relationship. If they had become closer friends as Michael's opinions began to change, that would have been cool and acceptable, but I really struggled with the romantic aspect.

I give them 4 stars. Read the darn book.

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