Sometimes a book comes along that punches you in the gut. This is one of those books. I LOVE I HATE I MISS MY SISTER by French author Amélie Sarn has recently been translated into American English so that all of us on this side of the Atlantic can feel that gut punch. Believe me, this is something you want.
Skipping back and forth in time, this novel follows Sohane, the “good girl” to her younger sister Djelila’s “wild child.” While Djelila is taunted by neighborhood kids for not dressing modestly enough — tight jeans, short sweaters, a blonde streak in her hair — Sohane has recently decided to wear a hijab to school, even though it’s against the law in France to wear headscarves — or any overt religious symbols — in public schools. Sohane makes good grades, keeps to herself. Djelila plays basketball and has a crush on a boy and has popular girl friends. And while sometimes Sohane feels a sense of what can only be described as schadenfreude when her sister has to hear taunts from the wannabe gangsters in the projects, she cannot stand it when those taunts go to far. When Djelila is killed, everything Sohane thought she knew about herself, her community — both in her neighborhood and in her school — and her sister is tossed upside-down.
I LOVE I HATE I MISS MY SISTER is a story that is not only terrifying and intense, but also based on real events that happened in France not long ago. It’s a story that shines a light on a girl from a culture that many Americans don’t know very much a about, and it is a story that shines a light on a teenager who is just like many American girls — struggling with her own identity, coping with jealousy, and juggling both social pressure and pressure from school. The voice is authentic and real and beautiful. The story is harrowing. This book is such a quick read that once you’ve been sucked in you’ll stay sucked in until you turn the last page, with tears in your eyes. Amélie Sarn‘s new novel is a must-read for fans of realistic fiction that pulls no punches. I hope you find your way to it, ASAP.