Book Review: You Truly Assumed by Laila Sabreen – Black Muslim Teens Find Their Voice and Power in this Empowering and Hopeful Contemporary

You Truly Assumed by Laila Sabreen. Reviewed by CW, The Quiet Pond.
Synopsis:

Sabriya has her whole summer planned out in color-coded glory, but those plans go out the window after a terrorist attack near her home. When the terrorist is assumed to be Muslim and Islamophobia grows, Sabriya turns to her online journal for comfort. You Truly Assumed was never meant to be anything more than an outlet, but the blog goes viral as fellow Muslim teens around the country flock to it and find solace and a sense of community.

Soon two more teens, Zakat and Farah, join Bri to run You Truly Assumed and the three quickly form a strong friendship. But as the blog’s popularity grows, so do the pushback and hateful comments. When one of them is threatened, the search to find out who is behind it all begins, and their friendship is put to the test when all three must decide whether to shut down the blog and lose what they’ve worked for…or take a stand and risk everything to make their voices heard.

I received a digital advanced readers copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

When I finished reading You Truly Assumed, I thought to myself: this is it; this is the book that is going to take the world by storm come 2022. And if you have been waiting for a story that explores the experiences of being Black, Muslim and teenage girls, that illuminates how the intersections of those identities can hold so much strength, difference and hope, then your wait ends with You Truly Assumed. This book is brilliance and power in book form, and I am so excited for everyone to read it come February 2022.  

You Truly Assumed follows three Black Muslim teens: Sabriya, Zakat, and Farah who live in different parts of the U.S. When a terrorist attack strikes and the terrorist is assumed to be Muslim, frustrated by the racism and Islamophobia that follows, the three girls come together and run a blog called You Truly Assumed, a space for Muslim teens. But when one of the girls is threatened, they must decide whether to shut down their blog and lose the community they’ve built, or stand up and risk their voices being heard.

What makes You Truly Assumed such a brilliant piece of YA contemporary fiction is how it firmly centers its story on three Black Muslim girls and their unique perspectives. This is not a story for the white gaze about how racism and Islamophobia are bad and wrong; to call it such would be reductive to the emotive and personal power of the girls’ stories. Rather, You Truly Assumed de-centers the harm and pain caused by its perpetrators and instead centers Sabriya, Zakat, Farah’s perspectives, their responses, their feelings, especially their joys and strengths and determination. The power and beauty of You Truly Assumed is that the three girls – Sabriya, Zakat, and Farah – reclaim their own power and agency on their own terms and of their own actions. 

Indeed, racism and Islamophobia are realities in Sabriya, Zakat, and Farah’s lives and they must navigate and grapple with the experiences and challenges that follow, but I loved that You Truly Assumed uncompromisingly rejects that the negative experiences are all that defines them. What I loved about You Truly Assumed is that the story highlights that, as the title cleverly suggests, they are so much more than what people assume them to be, and that there is difference even within the intersections of their Black and Muslim identities. 

For instance, we get the pleasure of seeing Sabriya fall in love and stand up to a racist in her life, we see how Zakat grapples with friendship and how she and her classmates fight back against bigots in her neighbourhood, and we see Farah navigate her blended family and her fraught relationship with her estranged father who is trying to make amends. Each girl has their own engaging character arc, their own story and their own full lives with problems outside of the prejudices they face, and we also get the pleasure of seeing the friendships that they form with each other when they begin to work on the You Truly Assumed blog together and witness these three girls grow together and lift each other up.

At the heart of the story, You Truly Assumed is about speaking up and how your voice can make room for hope. I loved the idea of their blog being a space of community, a place for other Muslim teens to connect with one another through shared lived experiences. I love that the book highlights how seeing someone feel the same thing that you feel can lighten the burden of loneliness and isolation. Moreover, the story shines a light on how speaking up can bring people together, how solidarity can offer spaces for people to speak up and be heard, and how through speaking up and standing up for what you believe in can give people hope and strength. In a way, You Truly Assumed is a story that offers the hope and strength that its characters aim to achieve; that sometimes activism is speaking up, holding space, and providing space for solidarity.

You Truly Assumed is truly an unforgettable story that elevates young adult literature. Not only does it challenge and shatter assumptions all-around, it is also a story that illuminates how connections that we have with one another – including through its down-to-earth and resonant stories of Sabriya, Zakat, and Farah – can lift us up and make us stronger. A splendid and an achievement of a debut; I cannot wait to see what Laila writes next.

Is this book for you?

Premise in a sentence: Three Black Muslim teens come together to start an online blog following a terrorist attack, and find friendships and support in one another.

Perfect for: Readers looking for a thoughtful yet candid contemporary story; readers who enjoy interesting characters with distinct perspectives; readers looking for a story about activism.

Think twice if: You are not looking for a story that tackles racist and/or Islamophobic experiences.

Genre: young adult contemporary

Trigger/content warning: Islamophobia, racism

Find this book on:
Goodreads | Bookshop | Indiebound | Amazon | My short review on Goodreads

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