What if you meet the boy of your dreams but loving him is forbidden?
Aisha Rashid is used to being invisible or bullied and overshadowed by best friend Isabelle. So no one is more surprised than her when Darren Brady, the hot new boy in school, takes an interest in her and not Isabelle.
But Aisha is a devout hijab-wearing Muslim and Darren is off limits. Does she follow her heart even if it means losing her own identity? And is Darren really all that he seems? If only there was away she could keep the boy and her faith.
Maybe there is a way? All it takes are ten steps…
Ten Steps to Us is a fresh YA contemporary following Aisha, a hijab-wearing teenager in the UK, as she grapples with her school exams, difficult friendships, family and her own identity, all while falling in love for the first time. As any former teenage girl will know, it’s a lot.
I really enjoyed reading about Aisha and following her struggles and her joys, while following her development. Aisha starts out (and to be honest, stays for most of the book) as a rather immature and annoying character. For the most part, her judgment is terrible and she is extremely naive, inconsistent and self-centred, willing others – mainly Darren – to mould themselves to fit what she thinks she wants. In short, she perfectly embodies the confusion and difficulties of being a teenager and, despite our current age difference (not that much, *cough cough), I could relate to some of her feelings, as I was reminded of my own teenage years and those wonderful, horrible first crushes. Aisha really comes into her own as the novel progresses though, and I loved her final development.
The author did a great job for her debut novel, as Aisha really comes alive off the page. I loved the fact that the main character is a hijab-wearing teenager, as I don’t feel I’ve read many (if any) contemporary YA novels featuring an openly Muslim protagonist. I also really enjoyed the fact that Aisha’s relationship with her faith was explored as a central point in her identity – and one that often can be the cause of much confusion and, sometimes, even pain.
The rest of the characters unfortunately didn’t quite live up to the task, as their development and characterisations often felt rushed, and some of their conversations with Aisha came across as unnatural and stilted. I would have also liked for Darren’s and Aisha’s reciprocal infatuation to be explored further, as it didn’t really come across as all that clear how or why this developed. As it stands, Darren seems more like the catalyst for Aisha’s own journey of self-discovery than a fully fledged character in his own right.
The plot itself held very few surprises for me as an adult reading this, and I can’t say I was greatly surprised by any developments. There is a toxic friendship that I could see coming right from the beginning, and I wish that more attention had been devoted to this as well as the romance, as I feel it was just as important a part of Aisha’s life as Darren – if not more. Nevertheless, the target audience is highly likely to appreciate this, and might even be surprised by a development or two. The ending was very satisfying, even though Aisha’s development seemed a tad too rushed and could have benefited from being explored further.
Overall, Ten Steps to Us is a solid debut featuring a compelling protagonist while tackling serious issues affecting teenagers and showing the author’s great potential for future books.
Huge thanks to Literally PR, Hashtag BLAK and the author for having me on this tour.
Be sure to check out the other stops!