In this third Ayesha Dean book, that can be read as a stand alone, the Australian teen sleuth finds herself on the other side of the law in the beautiful city of Lisbon in Portugal. Over 333 pages, she must understand what she is being accused of and figure out how to clear her name, all while marveling at the beautiful historic sites, diving into the delicious food, and looking fabulous while she does it all. Middle grade to early middle school readers will enjoy the fast pace mystery that has history, crime, adventure, and friendship. There, as always, is a twinge of romance, but it all stays halal as Ayesha is a proud and practicing strong Muslim young woman.
Ayesha Dean is now 18 and has just arrived in Lisbon for three months as part of an internship program to help little kids with their english. This is her first international trip without her beloved Uncle Day and her two closest friends Jess and Sara. Not to worry, there are a lot of young people participating in the internship program and she will be rooming with two girls, Mara and Aveline. Things start of routine enough as Ayesha gets to know the handsome and kind Raimy from America and tries to figure out why Aveline doesn’t seem to like her. But on her way to the school she will be working at, she finds a wallet filled with money and no identification, just a phone number. When she calls the number and a meeting is setup, the stage is set for a series of events that will include telling Raimy off for mansplaining things to her, a man murdered, a chase scene, a necklace stolen, no memory of it all, and Ayesha being arrested.
Knowing only a few people in the city, and having just met them at that, Ayesha makes bail by getting help from her friend’s Aunt in Spain who comes to provide Ayesha a place to stay as well. She has some time before her formal hearing, and Ayesha is determined to figure out what she is being accused of and how to clear her name. With the help of Mara, Raimy, a young girl in the elementary school Ayesha was working at, and some chance encounters, Ayesha finds herself risking her own safety in an underground environmental gang ring. I won’t spoil all the ups and downs and ultimate ending, but Ayesha Dean’s tae kwon do, faith, and wits will all be used and the last page will definitely leave you wanting more.
WHY I LIKE IT:
I feel like the writing has finally found the perfect balance between description and action, the first chapter was a bit choppy, but once it hit its stride it was smooth. I was intrigued by the historical detail that was all new to me, and am pondering how to convince the author to lead a tour group through all these places that Ayesha visits. As always the descriptions of food and architecture and fashion are all so spot on that you feel like you are there. I absolutely love that religion is so genuinely a part of Ayesha, but it is for her, she doesn’t do it for any one else. She prays, she wears hijab, she doesn’t drink, she clarifies to Raimy what she can do, she acknowledges possible stereotypes and discrimination, but chooses to move forward and not get bogged down by it. She is physically and mentally strong, but doesn’t come off as arrogant or judgmental or unrealistic.
I like the diverse characters in this book, and in all of them. The multi ethnic protagonist has friends from all sorts of backgrounds and it is really refreshing and natural.
There is murder, assault, crime, drinking and alcohol. Nothing is glamorized or anything a third grader couldn’t probably handle. There is a hint of possible romance, but nothing that crosses any lines or standards.
TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:
I would consider this for a middle school book club if the majority of the participants are 6th graders as it would not have the same appeal to older 8th graders. I think they would benefit the most and enjoy the strength and cleverness of such an inspiring lead. Of the three books in the series, I think this one would work the best for insightful discussion and empathy. It would great to hear them imagine themselves in her shoes: a foreign country, no family, no longtime friends, minimal language skills and accused of a serious crime. Oh I can’t wait to share this book with my reading friends!