Mad, Bad & Dangerous To Know

Soho Teen. Apr. 2020. 312p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781616959890.
Gr 9 Up–Khayyam, a trilingual senior awash with worries about college, is a first-generation American, the daughter of French and Muslim Indian immigrant university professor parents, and spending her annual August in Paris. Set on getting into a prestigious art school, she suffers a setback when a prominent art historian faults her research on a potential undiscovered Eugène Delacroix portrait of a legendary Muslim woman named Leila. Leila, a kind of Helen of Troy, was adulated in the 19th century by Byron and Delacroix, and was mostly known for her ill-fated beloved. Khayyam wants to find Leila’s real story, and will find allies who mourn the “centuries of women” who never got to have a voice. Khayyam’s tale alternates chapters with Leila’s. A primer on French flirting, estate management, impulse control, and Instagram, this art history mystery will be a sure hit with readers who grapple with love triangles, have their eyes on Paris, or are budding feminists. Leila’s chapters echo a lush and soulful prose, while Khayyam’s follow a sarcastic, neutral banter. This is a whirl through 19th-century hidden drawers, libraries, salons, letters, hashish clubs, mansions, and tales of squandered monies with a descendant of Alexander Dumas and a determined young Muslim woman, on a quest to determine who has the right to #writeherstory.
VERDICT Perfect for romantically and historically inclined teens whose ideal first date is an evening out to an art museum.

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