THE PLOT: The Beauty of Your Face by Sahar Mustafah is about an alt-right shooter who attacks a Muslim school in the U.S.. While the school principal, Afaf, is trapped in a closet, we travel back in time to her childhood. Riddled with trauma from the disappearance of her sister, and subsequently her mother’s depression and father’s alcoholism, we see how Afaf found solace in Islam and came to be working at the school.
RATING: This emotional, heart-wrenching book gets four and a half stars. It’s extremely well-written and well structured. The ‘A’ story about the shooter is scant but serves as a pull through the novel. Similarly, the intrigue around the disappearance of Afaf’s sister Nadia keeps you engaged in the plot. But, it’s the story of how Afaf learns to love and accept herself, including how Arab Muslims are treated in America, that will steal your heart.
GOOD BITS: The main character, Afaf, is very engaging and the beautiful writing allows you to enter her mind and get into her emotional state. I also like how there were chapters from the shooter’s perspective as it added another layer to the novel.
NOT SO GOOD BITS: The majority of Afaf’s outward transformation happens fairly early in the novel. Therefore, some of the later scenes had less action and were less dynamic. I felt there could have been a stronger resolution with the storyline about her sister, which could have mitigated this pacing issue.
OVERALL: I’d highly recommend this novel for those looking to diversify their bookshelves. It offers a unique perspective and I loved the positive portrayal of Islam, which is often lacking in literature.