Seven days by Rebeka Shaid

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Seven days is all it takes for grieving Noori and run-away Aamir to realise that despite false starts and misunderstandings, they have enough in common to make a lasting relationship.

In modern day Bristol, 16-year-old Noori is grieving the death of her best friend and cousin Munazzah. She is preparing to spend a year in Lahore, where Munazzah died, in an attempt to deal with her loss.  Not far away, 17 year-old Aamir has fled Cardiff after a fight with his traditional Punjabi father and is hoping that he can stay with his older brother while he sorts out his priorities and responsibilities.

Both are struggling to develop their own identity; Noori with progressive professional British/Pakistani parents and Aamir living in the shadow of his brother’s success and his beloved mother’s death.

The dual narrative encompasses seven days of Noori and Aamir getting to know each other, with each day a new section, and chapters alternating between both their points of view.

Over the seven days Noori resorts to various amusing ruses to overcome her best friend’s and family’s objections to her seeing Aamir again. They reflect on their feelings of sadness, and bond over their common experiences of death of a loved relative and being the subject of pernicious lies. As their feelings develop, they talk philosophically about running away from trouble, and seeking solace in poetry.

Growing up as a ‘third-culture’ child herself, Rebeka Shaid has written a heart-warming story of young people navigating through grief, cultural identity and parental expectations.

At a level appropriate in a YA novel there are interesting references to the Sufi poet Rumi, the fallout from the Indian Partition, and reactions of others to a young woman wearing a traditional headscarf.

This is a highly recommended story of finding yourself with the help of friends and family, with the added dimension of a cross-cultural context.

Themes: Friendship, Family, Multicultural, Muslim, Grief, Death.

Margaret Crohn