The title of this coming of age book is a play on words: the Arab kif-kif or "same old, same old" played against the French slang kiffer, to love/be excited about something. This sets the tone for the novel - a clever, funny and insightful girl moves from being lost and invisible to being alive and hopeful. The summer that Doria turns 16 starts off very much kif-kif. She lives in a housing estate just outside of Paris, called the Paradise projects. It's primarily a community for North African immigrants, and is separated from the (wealthier, French) neighbouring housing complex by a concrete wall. Doria and her mother, Yasmina live there on their own since "The Beard" (aka Doria's father) went back home to Morocco after Yasmina "failed" to give him a son. It is a struggle to make ends meet, and it often seems as if Doria is bearing much of the adult responsibilities that her underpaid, illiterate mother cannot handle. They manage with donations from their neighbhours, help from Aunt Zohra and scraping by with (ugly) thrifted clothes.
While things seem to go from bad to worse - Doria and Yasmina are overlooked for community events, they are behind with their bills, Yasmina's racist boss is cheating her out of her pay, Doria is failing several classes - they manage to turn things around. Yasmina takes a city-funded course to acquire skills for a better job and to become literate, and Doria's therapist Mme Burlaud tells her that she's ready to finish up their sessions. The nerdy "lame-o" guy who is tutoring Doria even turns out to be kind of ok, cute even, by summer's end. And while Doria's grades don't improve, her prospects certainly do. One of her only friends in the housing complex, a 20-something year old former drug dealer called Hammoud, tells her that he sees a change in her, and that she no longer quips about life being the same thing day after day.
Doria manages to crack jokes about mortifying events rather than becoming undone by them. She succeeds in channelling her anger into keen and witty observations about those around her, from the local shopkeeper (at once stingy and generous) to her social worker (who cannot seem to help showing off her manicures or new marriage). Gruen, who herself grew up in housing projects outside of Paris, and is the daughter of Algerian immigrants, published Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow when she was just 19. Very engaging and intelligent but written in conversational, accessible language, this would be a great addition to any library. Very little strong language and light treatment of some serious subjects mean that this is appropriate for 13+ Overall, reviews agree and are very positive. Highly recommended.
Was reviewed in Kirkus 5/2006.
(I really should read her other books in the original French! Alissa, maybe we should form a mini-book club and read them together!)...more
This novel began as a just-for-fun project between Wrede and Stevermer, who wrote to each other in turn, in charaI read this one for school - not bad!
This novel began as a just-for-fun project between Wrede and Stevermer, who wrote to each other in turn, in character, over the course of several months. They hadn't originally intended to publish, and did not plan the plot beforehand, instead they just took turns writing letters and allowed things to unfold naturally. This works well for the style of the novel, as it gives each of the main characters a distinct voice and writing style. This isn't necessarily my typical read, although I do like both historical and fanatasy YA literature. I am not normally drawn to read romance, and I have never read Jane Austen and yet this book draws more from both of those genres than typical fantasy. I still enjoyed it though, and would be likely to give it about 4 out of 5 stars. I would certainly recommend it to readers looking for light historical fantasy, with touches of humour and romance....more
Oh dear. I was pretty well convinced I would love this. Given that fact I'm not sure why it took so many years to finally read it (with apologies to mOh dear. I was pretty well convinced I would love this. Given that fact I'm not sure why it took so many years to finally read it (with apologies to my father in law who lent it to me only to see it gather dust). When I finally cracked it open (my new years resolution: read + return this book) I found it very hard to sink into. I liked so many things: the family, the basic idea, the setting, the dog... all of it. I found those huge blocks of text difficult to wade through though. Individual sections were lovely, but taken as a whole it made for breathless reading. Not in a good way. I will absolutely try again with him because I'm sure there's something out there of his that I will fall for, but it wasn't this one. ...more
When I first picked this book up, one of the review quotes on the cover proclaimed it "a rollicking good read!". I was skeptical of this statement eveWhen I first picked this book up, one of the review quotes on the cover proclaimed it "a rollicking good read!". I was skeptical of this statement even at about a quarter of the way in. Funny bits for sure, but rollicking? By the end though, I had to agree. In a strange way the tone lightened by the end (even though the events weren't necessarily lighter) and it was definitely not the end I expected. What I loved most about this book was Zadie Smith. No particular moment or character stands out above the others, but I loved her voice throughout the whole of the book. ...more
Ok, I haven't read it, I poured over the photographs. Really interesting to see families with a weeks worth of groceries laid out around them. I wouldOk, I haven't read it, I poured over the photographs. Really interesting to see families with a weeks worth of groceries laid out around them. I would have liked to see Canada included, and of course, lots more examples from all over! ...more