I Am Thunder
By Author / Illustrator
Representation & Inclusion
Paperback / softback
I Am Thunder is the Branford Boase Award-winning debut YA novel which questions how far you'll go to stand up for what you believe.
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.
'An uplifting, empowering novel with hope at its heart' Observer Children's Book of the Week. 'Funny and clever - a perspective long overdue in British fiction' Alex Wheatle, author of Crongton Knights. 'This one is special . . . punches well above the weight of most debuts' The Times. 'This assured, hopeful debut feels unprecedented and essential' Guardian
15-year-old Muzna feels frumpy. The daughter of first generation immigrants from Pakistan, she is caught between two cultures and struggling with low self-esteem and the changes that adolescence brings. She has been brought up to respect her parents and do as they say; they want her to be a doctor, she wants to write. Muzna is bullied at school, controlled at home and very vulnerable to being groomed - first through social media and then by the surprising and flattering attention of the school heart-throb, Arif.
In I Am Thunder, Khan draws us into Muzna's world, challenging misconceptions and stereotypes as he develops a gripping plot with plenty of twists and turns. For a book which deals with abuse, grooming, extremism and radical terrorism, it is remarkably hope-filled. Each character is developed to show very clearly that "being Muslim meant different things to different people".
Muzna's experiences help her to understand, and respect, Muslims who practice faith differently. She concludes that "faith was my way of being a better person. It helped me find a way to fight [a] warped version of Islam".
There are not many good YA books written by Muslims with strong Muslim characters and I Am Thunder is a very welcome addition to the genre.
320 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Jane Welby, school librarian.
Suggested Reading Age 14+