One of my favorite books, Finding Nouf (Houghton Mifflin, 2008), I only discovered when it won a 2009 Alex Award. I use it regularly for booktalks and it was a hit with the student bookgroup. Then it became a favorite with the faculty/staff bookgroup as well. (I have been raiding the Alex Award lists for adult bookgroup choices for years. Anyone else?)
City of Veils is one of those rare sequels that surpasses the original.
What appeals to teenagers about these books? It seems to be the peek into life in a Muslim culture, and particularly the way men and women are expected to interact within it, that intrigues them. And the thriller/murder mystery/forensics aspect doesn’t hurt.
FERRARIS, Zoe. City of Veils. 389p. Little, Brown. 2010. Tr $24.99. ISBN 978-0316074278. LC 2009047439.
Adult/High School–In this follow-up to Finding Nouf (Houghton Mifflin, 2008), Ferraris reveals an even deeper inside view of the interactions of men and women in Muslim society, this time adding an American couple living in Saudi Arabia. Miriam hated living in Jeddah from the start, but it is only when her husband Eric disappears that she understands the full extent of her vulnerability. Despite his utter discomfort with testing the Muslim edict not to be alone with women, Nayir (desert guide extraordinaire) finds himself helping Miriam. And he also cannot resist when Katya, assistant in the medical examiner’s office, asks for his aid with an investigation into the murder of a Saudi journalist in her early 20s, Leila, who was involved with a scholar researching early versions of the Quran. (This idea is blasphemy, as Muslims believe that the Quran is printed exactly as revealed to the prophet Mohammed, the true words of Allah.) A wonderful tension between Nayir and Katya runs throughout. The pacing is perfect, fast enough to keep readers engaged, but allowing the fascinating cultural details to be clear. Elements such as the introduction of a bluetooth burqa and an intense desert sandstorm rescue will appeal to teen readers. In fact, despite a lack of teenaged characters, this book is likely to be at least as appealing as Finding Nouf. The inclusion of an American woman’s perspective adds an irresistible new layer to the mix.–Angela Carstensen, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City