Continuing with my new plan of reading some books of my own choice, in-between those I have been requested to review, I Am Thunder by Muhammad Khan is my latest personal selection. I came across this title when I was looking at the shortlist for the 2020 Branford Boase Award. This is awarded annually to the author of an outstanding debut novel for children. And I discovered that this was the winner last year.
Here is the book blurb.
Fifteen-year-old Muzna Saleem is used to being invisible. So no one is more surprised than her when Arif Malik, the hottest boy in school, takes a sudden interest.
But Arif is hiding a terrible secret and, as they begin to follow a dark path, Muzna faces an impossible choice: keep quiet and betray her beliefs, or speak out and betray her heart.
Muhammad Khan’s stunning, multi-award winning YA writing gets right to the centre of what it means to be an urban teenager today.
Muhammad Khan wrote the first draft of this novel as an outlet for his feelings when 3 British schoolgirls flew out to Syria in 2015 to join the ‘Islamic State’.
To set the scene, the story starts by introducing us to 13 year old Munza and her best friend Salma. Munza is a British Muslim, daughter of strict but anti-religious Pakistani parents, who forbid her to wear make-up or speak to boys. They want her to be a doctor whilst Munza wishes to become an author. Fast forward a couple of years and the family move to South London. Without Salma around to stand up for her, Munza is determined to make friends at her new school and avoid being bullied.
Things start well with a new best friend and a boyfriend, but then what path is Munza following, as she bunks off school to attend Islamic meetings? Friends and teachers question her as they see changes. Munza is conflicted between what she hears and what she then researches online to compare it with. Meanwhile the story continues to gets darker.
I may have had to look most of them up, but I also loved how the book incorporated teen slang terms. And I was impressed by the detail paid to each scene and even minor characters.
I Am Thunder is available on Amazon. I highly recommend this amazing powerful read. Although fiction, it certainly does help to understand radicalisation, extremists and the role of Prevent / Channel.
About the Author
Born in Balham, Muhammad Khan studied engineering, but then trained as a teacher. After publication of I Am Thunder in 2018, he studied for an MA in Creative Writing at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. He is now teaching maths at a secondary school in Sutton. His second novel, Kick the Moon, was published in January 2019.