Review of That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim

That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim

To be published on May 9, 2017 by Harper Teen

Source: eARC for review

Plot Summary for That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim

Shabnam Qureshi is a funny, imaginative Pakistani-American teen attending a tony private school in suburban New Jersey. When her feisty best friend, Farah, starts wearing the headscarf without even consulting her, it begins to unravel their friendship. After hooking up with the most racist boy in school and telling a huge lie about a tragedy that happened to her family during the Partition of India in 1947, Shabnam is ready for high school to end. She faces a summer of boredom and regret, but she has a plan: Get through the summer. Get to college. Don’t look back. Begin anew. Everything changes when she meets Jamie, who scores her a job at his aunt’s pie shack. Shabnam begins to see Jamie and herself like the rose and the nightingale of classic Urdu poetry, which, according to her father, is the ultimate language of desire. Shabnam finds herself falling in love, but Farah finds Jamie worrying. With Farah’s help, Shabnam uncovers the truth about Jamie, about herself, and what really happened during Partition. As she rebuilds her friendship with Farah and grows closer to her parents, Shabnam learns powerful lessons about the importance of love, in all of its forms.

Review of That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim

Ah, that amazing feeling when you start a book and click instantly with the narrator. I instantly fell in love with Shabnam's curious, snarky, sometimes politically incorrect take on life.

This book takes place during the end of Shabnam's senior year and the summer before she heads to college. She's stuck at home with her parents, forced to do boring, embarrassing stuff like escort her visiting great-uncle to the Apple store. 
When she's offered a part-time job at a pie shack, she jumps at it, and develops a crush on her cute, breezy co-worker, Jamie.

Shabnam is Muslim and Pakistani-American. She's puzzled by her parents' marriage (ha- who isn't?) finding it hard to reconcile her mathematician father's absentmind professor personality with his fascination with Urdu ghazals (a structured yet ardent love poem). 

I really loved the poetry elements of this book and the way Shabnam compared the idealized love portrayed in the poems with the messy reality of romance. 

At school, when she's called on when the class is discovering the Partition of India in 1947 (creating two separate nations, India and Pakistan) she impulsively makes up a huge lie about her family's experiences at the time.

Shabnam has also drifted apart from her former best friend, Farah. When Farah decided to start wearing hijab, Shabnam didn't understand how her fiercely independent, feminist friend could adopt what seemed like such an oppressive custom. The story follows Shabnam's romance with Jamie and also traces the ups and downs of the girls' relationship.

I just love books like this, books that show how we are both different and alike. This book gave me new insights into a culture and religion I'm not a part of, but also reminded me that all of us have  much in common -- embarrassing parents, friendship troubles, dreams and insecurities about love.

Highly recommend this to readers who love stories with irreverent narrators, female friendship, and coming of age themes!


  1. I hadn't heard of this one but I love the way it sounds. I also love to learn about other cultures but see all the similarities too. Great review!!

  2. Oh, yeah. I love how candid and in-your-face she is. This book is new to me! Thanks for showing me the ways. Lol.

  3. Ohh this makes me so excited to start it!! I just got approved for an eARC and now I'm even more keen. :D I also like it when narrators are snarky and relatable. Loved the review, Jen!! :D

  4. Yay! This sounds great, and I am reading it this week =P
    Great review
    Sam @ WLABB

  5. It sounds like this would be a great insight to a different culture when reading it. I also really like the sound of the narrator being so easy to get along with. It makes it so much easier to sink into the story!

    1. Agree - I would have totally wanted to be her roommate in college!


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