Sunday, 25 July 2021

Blog Tour: Listen, Layla by Yasmin Abdel-Magied (Children's, 9 years +, 10/10E)



22nd July 2021, Puffin, Paperback, 336 pages, Review copy 


Book summary

I am Layla Kareem Abdel-Hafiz Hussein, the greatest Sudanese Australian inventor the world has ever seen. And if they don't know my name yet, they soon will. Inshallah!

School's out for the summer! And Layla's going to spend it getting her inventions ready for the grand design competition. But when her grandmother falls ill and her family must rush to Sudan to be with her, Layla feels like she's being pulled in many different directions.
Family, friends, home, inventions - there's a lot to navigate. With big protests looming in Sudan, could Layla save the day with her revolutionary ideas?

Nayu's Thoughts

While reading the first book, You Must Be Layla, will give more insight into Layla's life and her friends, it didn't matter that my first read about her was Listen, Layla. Everything about Layla is fully explained in this second novel. Layla is quite a character! She is extremely passionate about what she believes in, a great strength but this proves detrimental at times because she sometimes misses the woods for the trees. As a Muslim convert from a non-Muslim family I am always fascinated by family dynamics and the rich culture that comes from being in a family like Layla's Sudanese one, from the favourite recipes made daily which sounded delicious to how her parents view her hobbies. Layla's parents are kind, firm but fair even when on several occasionals Layla thinks they are unfair. Her passion for life leaves her blinkered at times to what really matters: this leads to her resenting her parents' orders and disobeying them with near tragic consequences.


Layla, like all teens, is still young. She does not always see the bigger picture: yes her school club is the centre of her world, and all that she can think of, but it is not all that she should be thinking of. Until it is pointed out to her she gives little consideration to the feelings of her mother who is worried over her own mother's health. She does not necessarily think to lend a hand in the Sudanese home, to do all she possibly can to make life easier for her parents. Instead she makes their already stressful visit more stressful with her resistance to obedience. When she does get told some home truths about her behaviour, to her credit Layla does realise a little how selfish she has been, and tries to make amends in her own way. Her efforts are not received as well as she hoped - I loved how confidence she is when inventing things, but her effort is noted eventually, and she does manage to make amends for her ill-informed actions. 

I feel Layla learns so much on the unexpected trip to Sudan. The visit isn't like her previous one several years before, she is not visiting for a joyful reason, so the atmosphere and activities she is engaged in is different. That isn't to say she doesn't have fun with her cousin who has secrets of her own (which in my view was not really appropriate for any young woman, Muslim or not, but it's reality too and I accept that). Yousra's secret lets Layla stay engaged with her fellow inventor teammates, although how she hid she wasn't in the same country as them for so long was impressive. I do wish she had explained the situation to them sooner, but I understand her thinking that keeping it quiet was best. 


When Layla couldn't actively focus on the competition of a lifetime Yousra got her passionate about the Sudanese protests. I personally learnt a lot from Layla's visit to Sudan, especially about the culture and difference in how the country is run and the facilities widely available (or not) to its' citizens. Layla doesn't always realise how privileged and fortunate she is in Australia with constant and clean running water, authorities who allow protests and don't shoot at bystanders. Layla learns some harsh life lessons, ones that I know she will never forget. These help her make an extremely mature decision at the end of the novel that was unexpected and heartwarming, it shows she has listened to her elders and understand what it means to be part of a team, both at school and at home.

Find out more on Yasmin's website.  

Suggested read

For more science-obsessed girls check out The Case of the Exploding Loo by Rachel Hamilton (Children’s, 9 years +, 10E/10E)


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