Middle Grade Review: Barakah Beats (Maleeha Siddiqui)


About This Book:

Twelve-year-old Nimra Sharif has spent her whole life in Islamic school, but now it's time to go to "real school."

Nimra's nervous, but as long as she has Jenna, her best friend who already goes to the public school, she figures she can take on just about anything.

Unfortunately, middle school is hard. The teachers are mean, the schedule is confusing, and Jenna starts giving hijab-wearing Nimra the cold shoulder around the other kids.

Desperate to fit in and get back in Jenna's good graces, Nimra accepts an unlikely invitation to join the school's popular 8th grade boy band, Barakah Beats. The only problem is, Nimra was taught that music isn't allowed in Islam, and she knows her parents would be disappointed if they found out. So she devises a simple plan: join the band, win Jenna back, then quietly drop out before her parents find out.

But dropping out of the band proves harder than expected. Not only is her plan to get Jenna back working, but Nimra really likes hanging out with the band -- they value her contributions and respect how important her faith is to her. Then Barakah Beats signs up for a talent show to benefit refugees, and Nimra's lies start to unravel. With the show only a few weeks away and Jenna's friendship hanging in the balance, Nimra has to decide whether to betray her bandmates -- or herself.


*Review Contributed by Karen Yingling, Staff Reviewer*

Fresh Take on Middle School Music Group
Nimra is excited but a little apprehensive about going to the public middle school earlier than expected. Her parents had her enrolled in Guided Light Acadamy, a private Islamic School, while she worked on the Hifz program, but now that she has memorized the Qur'an and had her celebration, they feel it's time for her to transition. Her best friend Jenna goes to Farmwell, so she won't be alone. Jenna isn't as supportive as Nimra thought she would be, and visibly balks when she finds that Nimra will be wearing her hijab every day. Nimra's parents are a bit more conservative than her grandparents, and her mother quit her job to stay home to take care of the family, and is now working with Nimra's father on their generic drug business, which takes up a lot of time. Nimra is conscientious about prayers and wearing her hijab in part because that is what her parents want, but she believes strongly in her religion and is proud that she worked hard to become a Hifz. Still, just like her parents and her grandparents, there are some intergenerational problems that she has. Her parents want her to take Spanish because it will be more useful, and don't want her to study art in school, although drawing is her absolute favorite thing to do. When Nimra is praying in the band room at lunch, she is approached by three 8th grade boys who have a Muslim band; Matthew, Bilal, and Waleed. They approach Nimra to sing with them, which sounds like a good idea to impress Jenna, who is ignoring her at school. The problem is that Nimra's parents think that Muslims shouldn't sing or dance in public. Bilal's sister, Khadijah, befriends Nimra and is a great comfort, since she also sets aside time to pray and wears a hijab. Nimra agrees to practice with the band, who are planning on performing at a benefit concert to raise money for refugees. Nimra knows her parents won't want her to perform, even though it is for a good cause, so she hides this from them. It's a delicate path to walk, especially since she has the group over to her house, and her parents know some of the boys' parents. When things go badly wrong with her friendship with Jenna, and at the same time, she feels that she needs to quit the band, how will she be able to stay in public school when all of her friends are mad at her.
Good Points
Many young readers will sympathize with Nimra's desires to do things her parents don't want her to do. She investigates people's reactions to her art on social media, and really wishes that she could take classes to improve her drawings, but her parents won't let her. The friction between the parents and grandparents was interesting to see as well.

I can't think of another book that portrays a tween or teen completing Hifz, but I hope that we see more books that include this rite of passage.

Nimra's problems with Jenna are the ones that will speak to most readers, because friendship drama in middle school is a given. It's usually not as horrible as one expects, but it is there. I wish that we had seen a little more of the girls' earlier friendship, because I never felt like Jenna was ever a very good friend to Nimra.

Hand this to readers who loved Jones' Girl vs. Boy Band, Triana's Backstage Pass, Haston's How to Rock Braces and Glasses, or Rue's Rock and Roll Rebel, or who have found Miley Cyrus' Hannah Montana somewhere and aspire to their own rock careers.

*Find More Info & Buy This Book HERE!*

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