Summary: Golden Girl
Golden Girl is Reem Faruqi’s sophomore middle grade novel. I liked her debut, Unsettled, but I loved this one. Afiyah has a problem with taking things (seemed like kleptomania) even when she tries really hard not to. Fortunately, she’s often remorseful and returns the stolen items. She’s shaken when her father is wrongfully arrested for embezzlement at the airport during a family trip. The situation puts a strain on her family and moves Afiyah to strongly examine her tendency to steal — especially after she gets caught in the act.
I really enjoyed this verse novel! Verse novels can be super sparse, leaving lots of language and very little plot, but Faruqi delivers on both sides. Afiyah is a strong female protagonist coming of age in these pages and we can feel her shame, sadness, and worry about her urge to steal. She’s crushed to disappoint her mother who is already stressed by single parenting while her husband could possibly go to jail.
Other things that readers might be drawn to in this story are:
- Afiyah plays tennis with her best friend, Zaina (the duo call themselves A-Z, which is really cute)
- Afiyah struggles with the fact that her friend is developing a more womanly figure while she’s still flat as a board
- Her relationship with said best friend is strained by her stealing
- She has a sweet relationship with her grandparents and younger sibling
- Afiyah’s grandfather has cancer and gets chemotherapy throughout the course of the story
I liked how realistic this was, especially in depicting something that is not so common in middle grade literature: a parent who’s been accused of embezzlement. We also see Afiyah’s mother try to pawn some jewelry to help the family get by, even though they were well-off financially before all the chaos.
Overall: Golden Girl
Golden Girl is a touching, realistic coming-of-age story about trying to break bad habits and dealing with a family crisis. This will pull at your heartstrings because we’ve all been through one familial crisis or another and we’ve all done things we weren’t proud of. Readers will root for Afiyah as she tries to be better for herself and her loved ones. A brilliant, engaging verse novel for tween and adult readers alike.