In her compelling debut, Aminah Mae Safi depicts with poetic beauty the emotional chaos of being a teenage girl. Leila "Lulu" Saad describes herself as not "rainbows and sunshine... not some magical f*cking princess who can't form a serious opinion." With one Iraqi parent and one American parent, she goes through more turmoil than the average teen and feels like an outsider in both groups. Lulu's father's Arab family is very close: "These women [know] how to look after one another. But they never [extend] the courtesy to her mother. And they only [give] such consideration to Lulu when they [see] her father in her." At the same time, some of her white classmates view her as a terrorist after the attack on Paris: "She was Iraqi, wasn't she, they... accused. They knew she was Muslim. Her fault... the dirty little terrorist." Luckily, though, Lulu is fully accepted by her three best friends, Audrey, Emma and Lo. Lulu knows that each of the girls would go to the ends of the Earth to help any of the others--until she manages to make a horrendous mess of their friendship and winds up completely alone.
Not the Girls You're Looking For is emotionally raw and relentlessly honest and funny. Safi celebrates young women and their distinctive bonds, depicting her characters with all the foibles growing pains produce. She also presents the identity struggles of blended families with candid realism, encouraging empathy for those who find themselves straddling two vastly different cultures and are trying to figure out who they are. Though they may not be the girls you're looking for, you should definitely seek out this book. --Jen Forbus, freelancer