Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Teen/YA Review: Zara Hossain Is Here

For my last audiobook of 2021, I chose Zara Hossain Is Here by Sabina Khan, a YA novel set in Texas that combines immigration and prejudice issues with typical teen themes of friendship, family, and new love.

Seventeen-year-old Zara Hossain is like any other teen girl in her Corpus Christi high school: studying and applying to colleges, hanging out with friends at the local frozen yogurt place, and maybe falling in love with her new friend, Chloe. But Zara was born in Pakistan and her family is Muslim, which makes her the target of bullying and prejudice at school. She only knows life in America, since her family moved to the United States when she was just three years old. Her dad is a doctor who finished med school and did his residency in Texas, and they decided to stay when he was offered a job as a pediatric doctor. He, her mother, and Zara have now been waiting patiently for over eight years for their green card applications to be approved, but the process is bogged down in bureaucracy. Tyler, the school's football star and all-time most popular guy, is the worst culprit when it comes to racist bullying of Zara, and his group of friends follow his example. She puts up with it, but then things escalate to serious hate crimes and even violence. Now, faced with the fact that their family is not safe, her parents are considering returning to Pakistan, but this is the only life Zara has ever known. Besides, as a bisexual, she is rightfully worried that she will face just as much hatred and bullying in Pakistan and won't be safe there, either. It's an impossible choice, and her family agonizes over what to do.

I enjoyed listening to this book, which combines the light, fun life of a teen with the very real dangers of living as an immigrant in the U.S., among racial and religious intolerance. That dichotomy makes the terrible choices faced by Zara's family feel all the more real. Zara and her parents have some wonderful friends who are supportive, but Tyler and his family are powerful, both in the school and in the town. The audio was very well-done, with narrator Richa Moorjani bringing Zara to life. There is so much emotional depth to this novel, which even shows Tyler's perspective and where his racist views come from. The author shows the complexities of trying to maintain hope in the face of hate, all while just wanting to live a normal American life.

256 pages, Scholastic Press

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.


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Listen to a sample of the audiobook here, from a section with Zara and her parents just after a hate crime has occurred, and/or download it from Audible at the link.


You can buy the book through Bookshop.org, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)--the convenience of shopping online while still buying local!



Or you can order Zara Hossain Is Here from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.


  1. I liked this one, too, especially that on the surface it seemed light, but it actually dealt with serious issues in an appropriate way.

    1. Yes, exactly - just the right combination