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Middle Grade Review: Amina's Song by Hena Khan

Title: Amina's Song
Author: Hena Khan
Year published: 2021
Category: Middle Grade fiction
Pages: 288 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location: (my 2022 Google Reading map)Pakistan, USA (IL)

SummaryIn the companion novel to the beloved and award-winning Amina’s Voice, Amina once again uses her voice to bridge the places, people, and communities she loves—this time across continents.

It’s the last few days of an amazing trip to Pakistan, and Amina finds it hard to leave the sights, the shops, and, most of all, her family. As she heads back to Greendale to start seventh grade, the experience has changed her, and she’s eager to share it with her friends.

At home, though, Amina discovers her friends don’t seem interested in hearing about her trip. With everyone growing in different directions, Amina wonders where she belongs—especially after her school presentation on Malala goes sideways, leaving her feeling like nobody understands both her worlds. When Amina turns to songwriting, a boy named Nico who shares Amina’s love for music becomes a welcome new friend. Will Amina find a way to remain true to herself, and to honor everyone and everything that make her who she is?

Review: This novel won the ALA Youth Media Awards for Asian/Pacific American Literature for Children and I can see why. I enjoyed the first book in this series, Amina's Voice and was not disappointed by this second novel.

Amina is a lovely character; she gets along with her family, is trying to navigate junior high (think friendships, crushes, etc), and embraces her culture and religion. But, Amina also is trying to figure out who she is: how can she be Pakistani and American? What should she do when people misunderstand her religion or the country where her family lives? How can she help her community and still be a teenager? All of these questions are ideas that middle grade students can relate to. 

It's also nice to read a novel in which everything is ok. Yes, there are family members who have surgery and squabbles/misunderstandings between friends, but there is no violence, no drugs/drinking, and no major drama beyond does that certain boy have a crush on me? I think sometimes YA/middle grade novels feel the need to deal with ALL the problems and this one doesn't, which is refreshing.

I also like the idea of Amina's voice/music playing a role in giving her confidence, access to new experiences (drama club, etc) and friends. That's how middle school works: you try out new things, begin to figure out who you are or who you want to be, and you stumble along the way, hoping to end up happy and fulfilled.

Challenges for which this counts:  
  • Literary Escapes--Pakistan
  • YMA--Asian/Pacific American Award for children

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