When Michael Met Mina by Randa Abdel-Fattah
Published July 28th, 2016 by PanMacmillan
Source: the publisher
Rating: 4 stars
From the blurb: When Michael meets Mina, they are at a rally for refugees - standing on opposite sides.Mina fled Afghanistan with her mother via a refugee camp, a leaky boat and a detention centre.Michael's parents have founded a new political party called Aussie Values.They want to stop the boats. Mina wants to stop the hate.When Mina wins a scholarship to Michael's private school, their lives crash together blindingly.
When Michael Met Mina is Aussie author Randa Abdel-Fattah's latest novel, set on the North Shore of Sydney. Mina, her mother, and her step-father have left Auburn for Lane Cove. Mina has received a scholarship to a local private school and her parents are determined to give her the best chance at life, hence the move. They are leaving behind friends they've known for years, and a suburb that embraces their culture. Mina and her mother came to Australia as refugees ten years ago, her father had died and her baby brother died on the journey.
Michael already attends the school where Mina is about to start. His parents have just started a new political party, Aussie Values, aimed at reducing the number of refugees allowed into the country. They say they do not promote racism or violence, but not all their members seem to be aware of this.
Mina is really strong, she's also clever, kind, and passionate. She loves books, music, her parents, and her friends. She's sad to leave behind the girls from her previous school, but she knows this is a good opportunity. She quickly makes friends at her new school, and her friendship with Paula always made me smile. They bond over coffee and their love of words and it was a really sweet part of the story.
Michael is a good guy and I really felt for him, as I'm sure a lot of readers will. When you grow up in a family with strong opinions, you tend to think they're your opinions too, especially if you live in an area that also holds those same opinions, and you surround yourself with people who don't think to question them. Meeting Mina really rocks Michael's world, for the better. He starts to think more about his parents' opinions, about the party they've created, and about the guys he hangs around with.
I like that the author didn't simply make this a case of white vs everyone else, as the political party has members of many nationalities, and despite some of them being immigrants themselves, they oppose new immigrants. The behaviour of some of the members was despicable, but also sad because there really are people trying to make the lives of others as difficult as possible.
This is a really timely story as here in Australia, and in many countries around the world, there is ongoing debate about the number of people seeking refuge. When Michael Met Mina is an excellent book for teens and adults to read, it will hopefully start a lot of conversations that need to be had, and might even convince people to be more compassionate.
Thank you to PanMacmillan for my copy.
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