The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah
The blossoming of young love across the divide of differing beliefs (or warring families in the case of Romeo and Juliet) is a classic storyline. In this case, we have Michael on one side, who is dragged along to anti-immigration rallies organised by his parents and Mina, who has survived a long and arduous journey from Afghanistan, a Muslim refugee.
Michael’s first glimpse of Mina is from the opposing side of an anti-immigration protest. He’s intrigued and his interest is piqued when he sees that Mina is a new student at his (predominately white) school. Their first exchange is testy and reveals their deep seated differences about Mina’s presence in Australia. As they get to know each other better Michael struggles to reconcile his feelings for Mina with his family’s publicly outspoken, Islamophobic and anti-refugee beliefs.
This book is a page-turner. Each chapter is narrated by either Mina or Michael and that allows us to build up a fuller picture of the characters. In particular, we can see Michael’s growing realisation that his parents’ ideology is flawed and inhumane. Michael and his classmates are forced to confront their privilege and casual racism as Mina becomes part of their friendship circle.
I loved the relationship between Mina and her new friend Paula. They hang out and do regular friend things, like bake and have movie marathons. This, along with the burgeoning romance between Mina and Michael provide entertaining relief from the anger and hatred Mina and her family face as they are trying to establish their lives in a new home and confront their painful past.
This is a good read, ideal for Years 9 and 10. The ending is hopeful and shows how dubious beliefs can be transformed through human relationships.