Do you ever just know that something is going to wow you upon first glance?
I’ve written a lot in my column about books that have surprised me, but sometimes, you can just tell when a book is going to rock people’s worlds even before you pick it up. That couldn’t be more true for Laila Sabreen’s debut novel, “You Truly Assumed.”
The novel follows three Black Muslim girls from around the United States who form a blog together after a terrorist attack sparks increased Islamophobia throughout the country. Sabriya, from Washington, DC, is at the head of it all, the one who formed the blog and the one who writes the posts. Zakat, a resident of the Atlanta suburbs, does the website’s artwork, though her parents don’t approve of her internet presence. Farah, a Californian staying at her father’s house in Massachusetts for the summer, writes the website’s code.
As the three of them become friends and their blog grows, so does the hate being thrown at them in the comments of their posts. And then one of them is directly threatened, and the three of them must figure out who’s behind all of it and decide what to do with the website before the situation gets worse.
Throughout the story, each character also gets their own individual storyline, navigating situations ranging from friend drama to first love. Sabreen shows quite well that there’s no one way to be a Muslim teenager, and the book balances these three characters’ points of view seemingly effortlessly. It was very easy for me to distinguish between perspectives, which is often hard to do when you’re writing in the first person.
I find myself in awe of how everything was tied together, the way that Sabreen wove themes of girlhood, family and Black Muslim identity. I, of course, don’t come from the same background, but I can still know that this book comes from Sabreen’s heart. The girls of this book seem much more realistic as teenagers than a lot of YA books I’ve read recently — their feelings jump off the page, but they aren’t quite as childish as YA protagonists can sometimes be.
And I can’t end this review without talking about the blog itself. The way the internet was depicted, from Twitter virality to internet friendships, was done in a way only a member of Gen-Z can, and it absolutely cemented my belief that we should be publishing more books written by teens and young adults.
I simply think that everyone should read “You Truly Assumed.” It offers a window into the minds of three teenagers with vastly different but impressively similar lives, and I can’t wait to see what else Sabreen has in store.
“You Truly Assumed” comes out on Feb. 8, 2022. I received an advanced copy from the publisher, Inkyard Press, in exchange for an honest review.