Book review: You’re Not Proper by Tariq Mehmood (London, Hope Road Publishing, 2015)
Reviewed by Jackie Ould, Director of the Resource Centre and Education Trust.
Tariq Mehmood’s latest book won the Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Children’s Book Award. Centred on the lives of two British-Pakistani girls, Kiran and Shamshad, in ‘a Northern town’, the book explores issues of identity and belonging, family, friendship and group relationships, untold secrets from the past: the usual fare of fiction for teens. Tariq’s unique take on this recipe is his feel for the local/personal impact of larger global politics: war, racism, religious conflict, Islamophobia. How do young people understand, internalise and play-out these global issues in their personal lives? What effect might they have on family and playground relationships? How do “dark kids who realize they’re not white…struggle to know how they fit into the society around them” as Tariq has posed.
All of which suggests the book is serious and heavy. In fact, it is often very funny and Tariq’s ear for accent and dialogue give it a special flavour making it very readable. Highly recommended, especially for teachers looking for fiction that encourages young people to discuss and debate who and what is ‘proper’.