Please Note: I received a free copy of When Michael Met Mina from it’s publisher Pan Macmillan in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my review in any way, and all thoughts expressed are solely my own.
“There’s a lot of ugliness under this sky. But there’s plenty of beauty here too. I want to find it, spread it around, all over the cruelty and injustice. I want to shake this world like a can of lemonade, pop the lid and watch the bubbles explode.” p.337
When Michael Met Mina is a gorgeously written novel that explores two opposing perspectives in regards to refugees and asylum seekers. The story follows that of two very similar teenagers, who come from two very different backgrounds.
Michael has lived in Australia his whole life, and lives on Sydney’s North Shore with his parents and younger brother. His parents are the founding members of a political party called Aussie Values. Their aim is to spread awareness of refugees who are “jumping the queue”, and beginning to overpopulate Australia, taking jobs away from Aussies, and not adhering to our way of life. They claim to celebrate diversity, as long as everyone assimilates into our society, and respect our Judeo-Christian values.
“Michael, it’s like this soup I’m cooking. The dominant flavour is asparagus. I’ve got other spices and flavours in here too because that’s what makes the soup so rich and flavoursome. But they complement the asparagus rather than take over.” – p.172
Mina came to Australia by boat, seeking asylum from her war-ridden homeland of Afghanistan. She was young when it all happened, but that doesn’t mean that she’s forgotten the horrors that she’s seen, nor does she completely forget the people that she’s lost along the way, even though they’ve now become a faded memory. Mina has a strong personality and a bright mind. And when she wins a scholarship to the same Private School that Michael attends, whole worlds are set to collide.
I’ve gotta say, this novel was intense. Don’t get me wrong, it was quite an easy (and very cutesy) read, but the themes are quite heavy. Fluffy romance aside, we’re offered a pretty deep look in Islamophobia via two different perspectives from the two opposing sides of the debate about allowing refugees into Australia, and boy do both sides have a story to tell.
This topic is very relevant to the issues that we face today as a first world country, and with the Federal Election tomorrow, I feel that When Michael Met Mina could be seen as a very important novel for the younger generation.
Whilst the novel is very obviously supporting the protection of asylum seekers, it also opens us up to understanding the point of view from those opposing allowing them into the country. Now, I personally am 100% for allowing asylum seekers into our country, but I was also intrigued at the reasons why we should be limiting the numbers. They were mostly reasons that I had never even considered before.
I will admit that I got lost a couple of times throughout the novel when there was heavy talk about the politics in regards to Aussie Values, but that may just be because I generally steer clear of any novels that contain heavy political themes. I tend to find politics dull, and hard to wrap my head around, and as a result, I feel that part of the story may have been lost to me.
In saying that, though, I didn’t struggle as much throughout this novel as I thought I would, because it was – for the most part – set out and told in such a way that was easy to understand.
The character development in this novel was phenomenal! At the start, Michael simply accepted and agreed with his parents’ political views, simply because he never thought nor had reason to oppose them. However, after he meets Mina, he begins to see their views in a new light, and begins to question them, whilst forming his own opinions, rather than blindly following in their footsteps. Upon these revelations, he starts to make things right, starting with Mina, and I really admire him for that.
“When we eventually say goodbye it feels like we’re actually at the start of something, not the end. There’s so much promise in her goodbye that it makes my insides feel all funny.” p.242
Mina on the other hand didn’t offer up so much on the character development front. To be completely honest, it was because of this that I didn’t really enjoy reading about her as much as I did Michael. It felt as though her sole purpose in the novel was to aid in Michael’s own development, which I guess that perhaps this is true. I really just felt as though there was something missing form her, and as a result I found it difficult to form much of an attachment to her as a character.
At the beginning of the novel, I did feel that their whole relationship was a little bit insta-loveish. It felt as though it was being forced just so the author could get a point across. Though, as the story developed and it became more clear as to where everything was going, it became easier to push those thoughts of a forced relationship aside.
“Maybe you only get one chance at meeting somebody who really gets inside you, wakes corners of your mind and heart that you didn’t know were asleep.” p.241
In the end, this is a beautiful and very sweet novel that doesn’t shy away from the fact that sometimes the opinions of those that we love may be very hurtful to others. Just because we care about the people holding those opinions, doesn’t mean we should allow that to cloud out own judgement. We need to stand up for what’s right, and offer protection and understanding to those that are very desperately in need of it.
Just because some people may come from a completely different background, and don’t necessarily share the same ideals or way of life that we do, doesn’t mean that they are any less important, or any less welcome.
Here in Australia, we are one.
When Michael Met Mina by Randa Abdel-Fattah
Published 28 Jun ’16 by Pan Macmillan Australia
Paperback / 360 pages
Young Adult Contemporary
Acquired from Pan Macmillan Australia
QBD / Dymocks / Booktopia / Book Depository / Amazon (kindle)
Find it on Goodreads!
I would like to thank Pan Macmillan for allowing me the opportunity to read and review When Michael Met Mina as a part of the Blog Tour for the novel’s release. I look forward to other opportunities such as this in the future!
Take a look below to see who else will be participating in the Blog Tour for this one over the coming month!
Do you plan on adding When Michael Met Mina to your ever-growing TBR? Perhaps you received an ARC? I’d love to know your thoughts!
Until next time,