Hot Pink in the City by Medeia Sharif first caught my eye in an update email from my publisher. A fluffy YA starring a Middle Eastern girl? Cool! But then it took me forever to get to, because it’s only out in digital and I prefer paperback. Once I started reading it, though, I breezed through it in two days. It was a lot of fun!
This book is like a classic 1980’s “teen movie” in literary form, starring an Iranian-American girl from Miami (yay! I grew up in South Florida, too!) who gets to spend the summer in New York City with her cousin. Within the first couple of pages of the book we get a Madonna-loving, soccer-playing teenage girl sitting on a plane, delighted when a cute and also Middle Eastern boy (he winds up being Syrian) sits next to her. Then, whoops! Turns out he was in the wrong seat. Will she ever see him again once they get to New York?
Most of the book centers on her growing friendship with her older cousin Nasreen. Together, they try everything they can think of to replace Nasreen’s father’s bootleg tape of a beloved old-school Arabic music star, which they’ve unintentionally destroyed in a “taping Madonna off the radio” mishap. (Imagine a world before downloading! Well, I don’t have to imagine, because I was there, but I’d forgotten about taping things off the radio. I mean, it’s been decades. Fun to revisit the 80’s.)
The girls’ adventures, secretly trying out for dance contests and dealing with unwanted male attention, as well as avoiding Nasreen’s bratty younger brother who gets everything he wants, get zanier and more cinematic as the book progresses, but it was still fun and everything works out at the end. Yes, there’s a slight m/f romance plot but it’s way on the back burner compared with the friendship between the cousins. It’s a love letter to the 80’s and to Middle Eastern American culture, and I’m pleased that we share a publisher.