Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Review: Rebels by Accident by Patricia Dunn

What she wanted was a vacation. What she got was a revolution.
After attending her first high school party lands her in jail, Mariam thinks things can't possibly get worse. So when her parents send her to live with her grandmother in Cairo, she is sure her life is over. Her Sittu is Darth Vader's evil sister, and Mariam is convinced that the only sights she'll get to see in Egypt are the rooms in her grandmother's apartment.
Then a girl named Asmaa calls the people of Egypt to protest against their president, and Mariam finds herself in the middle of a revolution, running from teargas and falling in love for the first time, and having her first kiss.

Though I live in Asia, I followed news about the Arab Spring intently.

In Rebels by Accident, Mariam and her friend Deanna are sent by their parents to Cairo after they get caught at a high school party. Deanna embraces the experience but Mariam is resistant. She feels she is more American than Egyptian, and she's a little afraid of her grandmother. Her grandmother is nothing like she imagines, though, and before Mariam and Deanna know it, they find themselves at participating in an important moment of Egyptian history.

The main theme of this novel is Mariam's search for identity and her connection to her heritage. I'm sure there are a lot of American citizens who are children of immigrants and feel more American than whatever their parents are. I don't know what that feels like, so I can't say for sure if they'll be able to relate to Mariam and her experiences. However, I think that they'll like her, at the very least. Mariam isn't perfect, but her flaws feel natural and not the product of an author trying to give her character a flaw just so she won't be too perfect.

The other characters are interesting too. Mariam's sittu (grandmother) was old-school in some ways, but very modern in others. She's wise and feisty, and exactly the kind of grandmother you would like to have once you're old enough to appreciate her. I found Deanna irritating at times, but she does seem like a real person, so I didn't despise her. Her love interest was the least appealing to me, mostly because he felt too convenient and insincere to me. On the other hand, I really liked the two other men who served as sittu and Mariam's love interests. They seemed trustworthy and not the type to flirt with everything in a skirt.

The abckground for this story is the Egyptian revolution against President Mubarak. Mariam and the other characters are at the periphery of the heart of this uprising, so they were in on the action, but not at the center of it, like the characters sometimes are in historical fiction. While I was interested in seeing the revolution up-close, I ended up being more fascinated by seeing Egyptian culture, Muslim rituals and learning basic Arabic. Perhaps those who are wary and make assumptions about every Muslim they come across will benefit from reading this book.

Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the e-ARC.


  1. The characters feel like real people.
  2. Readers learn more about Egypt, Islam and basic Arabic.
  3. It can make you think about heritage and who you are and what defines it.


  1. It will probably make more of an impact on you if you're the child of an immigrant or you relate more to where you grew up than where your parents come from.

In perfection, there is no brilliance; nothing shines or stands out, and there's nothing left to discover. It's through our differences, our weirdness, our strangeness, that we show the world why we're so special.

  1. You're curious about Egypt and its culture.
  2. You wonder what it was like during the Arab Spring.
  3. You've ever felt like you want to know more about where your parents or ancestors came from. 



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