Sway with Me

Little, Brown. Nov. 2021. 336p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316492416.
Gr 7 Up–A story of Desi friendship, family, honor, love, and dancing. Seventeen-year-old Pakistani American Arsalan Nizami has lived with his great-grandfather, “Nana,” since his mother’s death. Raised with contempt for technology and modern pop culture, the teen is bright, but friendless and awkward. When he meets Beenish Siraj, nicknamed “Beans,” who enrolls him in a dance competition, the two clash constantly because they come from different worlds. But as they grow closer, they see that they also share similarities. For example, Beans no longer talks to her mom, and Arsalan is away from his alcoholic and abusive father. Beans opens up Arsalan’s social circle, not only through dancing but also by introducing him to new people and 21st-century culture. Though the story starts slow, the plot eventually gains momentum and each individual is fully developed into a complex character. There is much discussion of the Desi Muslim community in America and some of its internal conflicts. The family and friendship issues discussed in this book are deep and layered, which makes for a very well-developed story.
VERDICT A great purchase for libraries, especially those serving Desi communities and collections where there are gaps in representation.

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