Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed

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Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed

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Category: Teens
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Heather Butterworth
Reviewed by Heather Butterworth
Summary: A beautiful story of two Muslim women, centuries apart, on a quest to write their own stories.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 317 Date: May 2020
Publisher: Atom Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0349003559

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In the end, we all become stories

Spending the summer in Paris sounds like a dream for most people, especially art-lovers, but Khayyam can't relax and stop thinking about the mess she left behind in Chicago. On a chance encounter with a descendant of Alexandre Dumas, Khayyam finds herself on a historical journey with him to unveil the truth about the 19th century Muslim woman who may have crossed paths with Alexandre Dumas, Eugene Delacroix and Lord Byron. As the two teenagers travel the city they not only discover themselves, but uncover the true story of the woman and why it was one that should never have been forgotten.

Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know is a book that should be part of every teens shelf. It tells the story of two powerful, young Muslim women living centuries apart – both trying to write their own stories. I am familiar with Samira Ahmed's work and know that her characterisation is always fantastic, but I found it outstanding in this book. Switching back and forth between points of view can sometimes be a little confusing for a reader, especially if the characters aren't distinct enough, but Khayyam and Leila are so wonderfully unique that you can skip between the two with ease and not once be confused by who is telling the story.

Leila is such a powerful character. In a world where she has little to no power, she takes control of her own life and story. Her tale is built on tragedy and I think she will move a lot of readers. Khayyam is also a great heroine and protagonist and I loved following her growth throughout. Ahmed intertwines the two narratives so well and as Leila's story develops we see Khayyam learning and developing as a person. Both are brilliant characters and have strong, feminist values which is perfect for this target audience.

The writing in Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know is so beautifully descriptive that I felt like I'd been transported to Paris. What was most impressive about this was that Ahmed does this without sticking with the normal, parisian cliches and manages to take you on a tour of Paris without focusing on all of the most popular tourist destinations. As a reader, you can feel the writer's love for Paris seep from the pages and it plays a really important role in the success of the setting. Although the writing is descriptive, it is still simple and fluent and makes the story easy to digest.

This story includes a 'love triangle' but, for me, it didn't work. I've never been much of a fan of love triangles but sometimes they do work. I don't think either of the male characters were developed enough and neither were very good choices for Khayyam. The relationships between them aren't explored much either which led to me losing interest whenever the romance element was happening. I would have much preferred to hear more about Leila and, in comparison to her story, Khayyam's troubles seem a little unimportant. However, this could be a nice exploration of how society for women has changed.

Overall, I think this is a perfect, summer read with some strong, female characters, important messages and a fun adventure. Perfect for teens/young adults wanting to escape for a little bit.

For similar reading I would recommend They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera and A Wrinkle In Time by Madeline L'Engle and Head Over Heart by Colette Victor.

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Buy Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed at

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