Before Mina, my life was like a completed jigsaw puzzle but Mina has pushed the puzzle onto the floor. I have to start all over again, figuring out where the pieces go.
When Michael meets Mina, they are at a rally for refugees – standing on opposite sides.
Mina fled Afghanistan with her mother via a refugee camp, a leaky boat and a detention centre.
Michael’s parents have founded a new political party called Aussie Values.
They want to stop the boats.
Mina wants to stop the hate.
When Mina wins a scholarship to Michael’s private school, their lives crash together blindingly.
A novel for anyone who wants to fight for love, and against injustice.
Thank you Jenna @ Reading With Jenna for sending me an ARC!
At first glance, When Michael Met Mina sounds like a meet-cute-esque romantic comedy with a bit of forbidden love thrown in there, right? You have the opposing sides of a debate, the two main characters “meeting” at a rally, and them coincidentally going to the same school. Suffice it to say, the book was much more than a light, fluffy contemporary that I’m prone to pick up. When Michael Met Mina tackles current issues through two very contrasting lenses. Abdel-Fattah weaves introspective narratives that look at the debate of refugees in Australia in a very micro-level aspect from the alternating first-person POV’s of Michael and Mina. I thought the characters were written really well, and although Michael had a more marked character arc, Mina also went through changes in her life that she had to adjust to, character-wise. The wonderful friendships – and not so wonderful friendships – were all realistic as readers really see how the world is made up of grey ideas, neither black nor white.
The book begins with Michael’s insta-attraction to Mina during a rally where he stands in support of his parents, who founded a political party dedicated to keeping refugees out of Australia. Mina herself is a refugee from Afghanistan, and attends Victoria College with Michael on a scholarship after moving from a cultural hub, Auburn. While at Auburn she had her own group of eclectic friends, it’s much harder for her to fit in at Victoria College. Immediately she feels an isolation, but later on starts branching out as she finds similar spunky characters that make her feel accepted. I really liked seeing Mina’s close relationship with her mother and step-father, as well as how she helps out at their family restaurant. While at first Mina seems reserved, she really has an outspoken side with friends, and for what she believes in. This first comes out when she hears Michael with his racist friend Terrence, making insensitive remarks in class.
“We are worlds apart in every sense and I want to know everything there is to know about her.”
Michael, on the other hand, goes through a huge character arc. As a son of a political party’s founders, he obviously gravitates towards his parent’s views. I mean, they’re “good people” and raised him. However, he starts realizing that he never really sought out the whole picture until meeting Mina and her (initially) scathing remarks at him. He takes the time out to research on his own, learn, and choose what he thinks is right instead of what his parents do. Reading from his perspective was really immersive and relatable, as he ruminates about how kind people can certainly be racist, and how we need to take the step up and hold them accountable for it as well, no matter how good of a friend someone is. His relationship with Terrence was a really good example, and also showed the realistic perspective on how friendships may or may not work out.
“It’s so much easier to live in a world where everything is black and white.
I’ve never done grey before, but I suspect it’s one of those things that, tried once, you can never resile from.”
While Mina and her family are adjusting to the new move and restaurant, as well as seeking out new friends, Michael has to come to terms about his previously existing beliefs and realizing that he can’t be neutral on a moving train. Adbel-Fattah writes in a very blunt, very frank way that has a straightforward edge that makes the dialogue and character thoughts all the more impactful. While there is romance, there is also politics and heavy discussion going on. I recognize that this might throw some readers off-balance, but I highly recommend it, romantic or not (and in case you were wondering, it gets pretty adorkable at some points so yes, feels get involved :p ). The romance is extremely light and sweet, while the character development was probably the most marked focus. We weave that with an abundance of love from family and friends, the possibilities of taking a risk, and standing up for what we believe in, and there you have it: a compulsive contemporary tackling current issues in a straightforward manner from the contrasting narratives between two vastly different – but also similar – teens. This was my first book by the author, but it certainly won’t be the last.