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An Infidel in Paradise

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Set in Pakistan, this is the story of a teen girl living with her mother and siblings in a diplomatic compound. As if getting used to another new country and set of customs and friends isn't enough, she must cope with an increasingly tense political situation that becomes dangerous with alarming speed. Her life and those of her sister and brother depend on her resourcefulness and the unexpected help of an enigmatic Muslim classmate.

272 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2013

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About the author

S.J. Laidlaw

3 books23 followers
Susan Laidlaw has twenty years experience as a teacher and counselor in schools and clinical settings around the world. She has published articles on parenting and has led workshops for parents and professional educators on a diverse range of topics related to raising and working with third culture children. When she isn't backpacking through Asia or birdwatching around her island home in Honduras, she can be found writing stories. Susan Laidlaw currently resides in Canada.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 42 reviews
Profile Image for Lissa00.
1,206 reviews25 followers
February 13, 2013
It was refreshing to read a young adult novel that was not a paranormal or dystopic romantic triangle (although I do love those). Emma is a sixteen year old daughter of a Canadian foreign consul. She has traveled all over the world but her own world is turned upside down with her parents separation. She is also dealing with yet another move, this time to Pakistan, in which she makes enemies on her very first day. I liked this book, and as I said before, it was refreshing. I don't know enough about Pakistan culture or diplomatic life but it seemed realistic enough. Emma made some huge mistakes that were somewhat frustrating at times, but she did evolve and learned her lesson in the end which I guess is all you can ask from a sixteen year old character.
Profile Image for Helen.
23 reviews
May 23, 2013
Originally posted on http://canlitforlittlecanadians.blogs...

noun \ˈin-fə-dəl, -fə-ˌdel\
1 : one who is not a Christian or who opposes Christianity
2 a : an unbeliever with respect to a particular religion b : one who acknowledges no religious belief
3 : a disbeliever in something specified or understood
Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictio... on May 8, 2013

Under this definition of infidel, just about anyone could be called an infidel. Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, agnostics - all could be considered infidels by another group. Yet the scathing judgement that is leveled against sixteen-year-old Emma as a Canadian teen forced to live in Islamabad, Pakistan is especially outrageous; she doesn't want to be there anymore than anyone else wants her there.

After her dad takes off with the family maid from their posting in Manila, Emma Grey's family (older brother Vince, younger sister Mandy and Mom) relocate to Pakistan for her mother's job, running the consular section of the Canadian embassy. Though embassy children are used to moving around a lot, the whole "make-new-friends and learn-to-fit-in" process required to make lifetolerable seems more problematic for Emma this time, probably because of her father's absence and mother's absorption in her work and obliviousness to her children's needs. Emma is resentful of her mother for forcing them to move (this was a weak effort to make Dad choose between his family and new partner), and for expecting more of Emma specifically, including mothering eight-year-old Mandy. Not surprising that Emma is brutally honest when asked by a new classmate, Mustapha Khan, how she is enjoying Pakistan.

"Well," I begin, feeling the familiar anger wakening like a beast inside me, "there's not a single mall, movie theater, or Caramel Frappuccino within a thousand miles, but there are huge poisonous reptiles, beggars on every street corner and all the atmosphere of a maximum-security penitentiary. I'm just surprised there's not more tourism." (pg. 21-22)

Ouch. Not the way to make friends and influence people apparently. Although she is quickly welcomed by Angie, a girl from the American compound, and introduced to her friends, Leeza, Jazzy and Tahira, Emma's candour and insistence on personal freedom place her at odds with several students, including Aisha, Mustapha's wealthy "promised" one, and Faarooq, protective and strict brother of Tahira.

All conflict is compounded when Mustapha continues to pay attention to Emma, much to Aisha's irritation, and Emma and Mustapha are thrown into a drama group with Faarooq and another boy Ali to produce a skit about conflict, first focusing on a racist American girl (hint?) and then on a Pakistani boy who likes a Canadian girl. And, although Emma enlists Angie's help to avoid being alone with Mustapha, knowing that she is attracted to him, she and Mustapha are repeatedly thrown together, sometimes because he chooses to be with her and sometimes because he wants to be kind. It all makes for much cultural and romantic confusion.

I can't imagine the transient lifestyle of foreign service families and the particular skills that the children must need to navigate new lives successfully. Couple that with divorced parents and living with a workaholic mother and in a tenuous political-religious situation, and you've got all the makings of a disaster. S. J. Laidlaw thankfully has given Emma the wicked sense of humour, common sense and heart to find a way to help Mandy and herself, as well as carve a niche for themselves in their new world. She finds a source of wisdom, recognizing the value in the kind and comforting Mr. Akbar, and has enough insight to recognize her own flaws and address them as she can.

S. J. Laidlaw could have imbued "An Infidel in Paradise" with the same resentment that is implied in the scathing indictment of "Infidel!" leveled against Emma but she does not. Instead, she plays with the idea that the safety of "inside", whether it be the compound, one's comfort zone or culture, and the danger of "outside" is not always the case. It has more to do with perception and broaching that transition with caution in an effort to make both territories manageable. Even Emma is able to find herself accepting her new life as "An Infidel in Paradise."
Profile Image for Lisbeth Avery {Domus Libri}.
196 reviews153 followers
February 18, 2013
Where do I start? AN INFIDEL IN PARADISE is about a girl who has moved to Pakistan and has to adjust to living there which basically means it's a high school drama set in well, Pakistan. That's really at AN INFIDEL IN PARADISE was - a high school drama. The plot promises a YA political thriller. I mean, it actually says this in the plot summary:

an increasingly tense political situation that becomes dangerous with alarming speed

But then again it says this in the plot summary...

an enigmatic Muslim classmate

And everyone knows when a plot has the word "enigmatic" in it, it's usually about a romance not what it actually promises. In fact, I don't think I've read one books with the word "enigmatic" in the plot summary that didn't have romance as the main focus... (seriously guys, if you can find one non-romance focused book with the word "enigmatic" in the summary, I'll send you some chocolate).

My biggest overall complaint is the simple fact that AN INFIDEL IN PARADISE glorified cheating. I don't think this is the intent since but even so, it was there.

The love interest, Mustapha, is engaged to Aisha. Emma comes in and starts flirting with Mustapha, trying to get him to leave Aisha (who he admitted to loving). That's what the main story is about. Aisha is portrayed as the jealous bitch even though she's just trying to get Emma to stop. Emma even acknowledges that she is flirting with Mustapha but she continues throughout the book.

Cheating is not okay. I don't give a damn if it's because you love her (you don't). Cheating will never be ok. Mustapha is also to blame since he seems to want the best of both worlds, both Aisha and Emma.


The main character in the novel is where many of my complaints center since she's so infuriating. I really wanted to strangle her around twenty times, which isn't really that much but I restrained myself - a lot. Emma hates every person with boobs really.

If the girl looks at her the wrong way, she giving her death glares. If a girl dresses a certain way, she has to be an idiot. There's one character where Emma takes one look at her and nicknames her Hip-Hop Barbie. The little adjectives here and there make it very obvious that she thinks that everyone is an idiot to her genius.

Emma seems to think that the world revolves around her. Everyone in her family is mad? Obviously, the only reason they could be annoyed is because of her. I mean, it couldn't be any other reason!

The other characters were stereotypes. There was the ice queen bitch who hates the main character, the amazing handsome wonderful love interest, the idiot friends who don't know as much as the amazing wonderful main character, the angsty little brother who hates the main character, the understanding teacher, the parent who is like totes annoying and doesn't understand our main character ... I could go on and on.

The only character I'll go over is Aisha, or better known as ice queen (she was seriously called Ice Queen). Aisha was that bitch who takes one look at Emma and WAAHH I HATES YOU AND I WILL MAKE YOUR LIFE MISERABLE 4EVER. Except, in this one, I totally agree with that sentiment. Sure, it was weird that she immediately hated Emma but the first time she met Emma, Emma flirted with her fiancé and disrespected Aisha's country. I would hate her too , oh wait I do.

Plot and Writing
As I said, the plot is very disappointing. The only "political tension" in the book is at say 75% and it's only mentioned a bit before forgotten in favour of the romance. The "political tension" comes back at the very end in an odd and sudden terrorist attack but that's it.

The summary says that ...her life and those of her sister and brother depend on her resourcefulness and the unexpected help of an enigmatic Muslim classmate. but honestly Emma's life is not in danger and Mustapha isn't really doing any helping.

The plot summary is a LIAR.

The one positive thing in this book is the writing. Though, childish and mediocre at times (well most of the time but who's counting right?), some of the descriptions for the places were truly amazing. I felt like I was right there with Emma at times. That was awesome.

Likes and Dislikes
- Writing

- Everything else

In conclusion
I really hated AN INFIDEL IN PARADISE and wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

Find this review and more at my blog:
Profile Image for Kim.
1,234 reviews21 followers
February 17, 2013
I received this ARC from Netgalley.

The idea of this story intrigued me from the beginning. I love that it is about a Canadian girl who's mother is an ambassador and that they're stationed in Pakistan. The story itself was a good read and an interesting look into what that type of life is for young adults. I wish it described Pakistan itself a little better, but given the climate of the book, it really couldn't be done. All in all, a satisfying story, but I could do without the romance aspect.
Profile Image for Britta.
322 reviews54 followers
February 22, 2013
An Infidel in Paradise is the first book I've read that takes place in Pakistan, or even the first that takes places in that section of the Middle East. Whereas I haven't experienced that section of the planet in person or through books, I, like many people, have a distinct (but not necessarily accurate) picture of Pakistan. When I hear the name, I think of a dry, barren place filled with violence. I realize it is unfair to take a country I know virtually nothing about and apply such a negative label to it, but it is a product of media. The main character, Emma, feels the same way. Which is why she is less than excited to have just moved to Pakistan with her mother and two siblings.

Emma's mother works for the Canadian embassy, which is why the family moves around to strange, unique, and dangerous places. Each time Emma moves, she cuts connections with her past life - past friends - afraid that if she gets attached to the long distance friendships, the inevitable let down will be much more poignant. The story opens and immediately paints a negative image of Emma: she is pessimistic, moody, insecure, and rude. She is afraid to let people in and automatically thinks the worst of every situation. Granted, her acts are justifiable due to her new situation, but it doesn't change the fact that she is not ideal. However, this is not the case throughout the novel. A real strength of the novel is that there is a very clear and strong progression in Emma from beginning to end, pessimistic to optimistic, ignorant to understanding. Emma went into her new home with the same type of impression many of us hold; a terrorist ridden, barren country where she will forever be a target. However, by the end of the novel, she really gets a feel for the country and it changes her.

Although I cannot claim this novel to be realistic, since I have no idea what the situation is actually like in Pakistan, the story does feel very real. I mentioned that Emma starts to appreciate the country, and that is true, but just like the good aspects are highlighted, so are the bad. There are moments of action that made my heart race, especially the last couple of chapters. There is a constant presence of danger that looms in the background of each scene. Emma and her family live in the Canadian compound which is surrounded by all the other western embassies, but she is not isolated from the country natives. When ever she can be seen by the public, her skin color and lack of extreme modesty make her a target. Some scenes are brutal and terrifying, but then some scenes are sweet and enlightening. The contrast between these two aspects really makes An Infidel in Paradise an interesting read.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. It provided me with a means to spend time in a place that I know nothing about, and in which not many YA novels take place (can you even think of another one? And not post-apoctalyptic). As quick note on the actual book, I loved the designs at the beginning of the chapter, as well as the snake image (cobra?) that opens the novel. I really appreciate it when a publisher spends as much time on the inside of the book as it does on the cover. The designs are very similar to those featured on the cover, and the incorporation throughout was nice.
Profile Image for Sally.
Author 6 books140 followers
February 13, 2013
So, Emma and her family (minus Dad, who left them for their maid in Manila) have just moved into the Canadian embassy enclave in Islamabad, Pakistan and what follows is a pretty fascinating culture-clash story as she adjusts to life in yet another new country, and finally comes to terms a little with all that moving around she's done. It's a tough life having to completely pick up and start fresh every few years, leaving behind old friends and having to make new ones that you'll just leave again... so what's the point?

It's an interesting look at life in Pakistan for teenagers from a Western point of view as well. The trip to the market where first the girls (and soon boys too) turn Emma's and then her brother's wardrobes inside out looking for something suitable for her to wear, and THEN debate whether or not to leave her in the car until they can buy her a shawl to cover her head with, is brilliant.

The rioting scene near the end was bloody terrifying as well. The earlier one, when they were all holed up in the school, was chilling for how boring and usual it all was to so many of the students.

I really enjoyed and was fascinated by this story, and it's also a very quick read which I always love. However, it loses a star for one of the most sickening instances of animal cruelty that I have ever read.
1 review
February 23, 2013
Infidel in Paradise is young adult fiction at its finest. The plotting is fast-paced and compelling. The main protagonist, Emma, possesses a nuanced authenticity that is engaging and credible. Within minutes of beginning this book, the reader is plunged into Emma's inner world and vicariously experiencing all the tumultnous emotions of a young girl coming to grips with daily life in an utterly alien society.

And what a world it is! Pakistan is depicted with an immediacy that is palpable. The reader is presented with a culture of stark contrasts - the great wealth of the upper elite juxtaposed against the abject poverty of kids who survive by trash picking: the frenzied hatred of jihadists set against the benign serenity of an Islamic gardener.

Infidel in Paradise is a 'must-read' for all young adult readers with the intellectual curiosity to travel far! outside familiar comfort zones to an unforgettable terrain that will resonate long after the last page is turned.
3 reviews
February 18, 2013
I really enjoyed reading this book! I found the characters to be very engaging and the story to be a page turner. Emma, the main character, has a lot of depth to her and it was very enjoyable to see how she and her various relationships (i.e., with her sister, mother, brother) developed over the course of the book. I found the setting of the book very compelling. It was also interesting to see what it is like for children and teens who move around a lot.
322 reviews29 followers
February 4, 2013
Description: Sixteen-year-old Emma is no stranger to moving. The daughter of a Canadian diplomat, her life has been a series of changing landscapes, cultures and friendships. But when her parents split up and she and her siblings are forced to move to Pakistan with her mother, her feelings of loss and culture shock are overwhelming. Add to that rising political tensions and her attraction to a local boy who has been promised to someone else, Emma’s life very quickly spirals out of control, putting herself and those she loves in mortal danger. [From the publisher]

Review: Ages 12 and up. I’ve always enjoyed books set in a place I’m unlikely to visit—-a pseudo-vacation, in a way. So I chose An Infidel in Paradise because it takes place in Pakistan, where Emma, the main character, has just moved. Emma’s mother is a busy and often disengaged diplomat, and her parents have recently separated, with her beloved father remaining in the Philippines at their family’s last post. Emma has lived all over the world, but she’s shattered by the changes in her family and the adjustments of living in a restrictive and sometimes hostile country.

The book’s not complicated, but it’s rich in details and brings to life the stark differences between the cultures (Emma is Canadian) in a way that will be appealing to teens because it sneaks under the radar. You’ll learn what traditional Pakistanis wear, but because the girls go shopping; you’ll learn about arranged marriages, but through the eyes of the “hot” love interest. Laidlaw does a thorough job of introducing characters with different perspectives, from the wealthy Pakistani students who attend Emma’s school, to the poor children who collect trash outside the diplomatic compound and the servants who look after Emma’s family.

As a parent, this book reminded me of how unsettling and lonely the teen years can be, no matter where in the world you are. My heart ached for Emma for most of the book—-as she gets angry and says something she later regrets, as she pushes her friends away so she doesn’t have to risk losing them, as she misses her father but refuses to forgive him. She makes reckless but human decisions, but she loves and is loved genuinely, and the book comes full circle at the end as she regains her footing.

Middle-grade readers will like the casual language of the book, the teen-appropriate connection between Emma and Musa, and its quick pace. Adults will enjoy recommending it because of the cultural references and current events focus. A final note: the ending, though a bit dramatic for adults, is perfect for this genre.
Profile Image for Moze (SmartFolksRead).
49 reviews19 followers
March 11, 2013
When Emma’s parents split up she is left reeling especially because her mother has decided to pack her and her siblings up and relocate to Pakistan from Puerto Rico. This isn’t Emma’s first move, though. As the daughter of an employee of the Canadian Embassy, Emma has lived all over the world, but this time around she is having a hard time adjusting to the culture. Emma finds herself experiencing things she never thought she would: from riots in the streets that result in the students at her school being unable to leave the building for fear of their safety to realizing that not all people are free to do as they please.

I genuinely enjoyed this book. I picked it up one night when I was unable to sleep thinking I would just read a bit of it to help tire me out. Come 3 a.m. I was still sitting there reading needing to know what would happen to the characters that I had grown to like. Emma is your normal teenager who has trouble making friends when she moves and dealing with her emotions concerning her parents’ divorce. I liked the fact that this novel was set in such an exotic location, but that Emma didn’t see it that way at first, which is understandable considering her emotional state.

SPOILERS: I thought it was a bold choice to not have Mustafa and Emma end up together. To have Mustafa and Emma both acknowledge their feelings, but to know that it was impossible for them to be together because of Mustafa’s engagement. The fact that Mustafa was in love with Emma and still told her that in the end he would have to pick the girl he had been promised to was something unexpected simply because in most YA the formula is to have the girl meet the boy, go through some trials, and in the end come out in a relationship or in a position to be in a relationship.

UNSPOILERS: Overall I greatly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who likes books set in other countries or that address Americans dealing with other cultures.
Profile Image for Jenni Enzor.
35 reviews1 follower
February 24, 2014
This was a fast read, but it was because I was so invested in the character. Emma is difficult to like, but her humor and her way of seeing the world really endeared her to me. Her observations were often bluntly honest, but that was so refreshing and believable. Having lived abroad (although not in Pakistan), I could relate to her feelings of not fitting in anywhere. I liked the ending, and thought Laidslaw made a great choice in how she resolved the main question of the plot. I would recommend this to others--especially for teens to see what life is like in other countries or for teens who've lived abroad themselves.
Profile Image for The Twins Read.
277 reviews19 followers
January 24, 2013
This review can originally be found at The Twins Read .

Emma's life is in upheaval; after her father left them to live in Boracay with their maid, her mother uproots them from their cushy life in Manila and transplants them to Pakistan for a chance to start over. It's not easy for Emma to get used to her new surroundings; she has to deal with her parents' separation, the growing distance between her siblings and herself, and being the new girl in school.

Emma is your typical teenage girl. She's suffering from teenage angst, loneliness and the pressure of being a foreigner in a hostile country - she just feels so out of place. She misses her friends and her life back in Manila, and severs all contact with them. She's afraid to make new ones because she has this mindset that given her mother's occupation, there is no telling when and where they'll be the next day. We know how hard it is to have undergone something truly life-changing, only to be overwhelmed by a new environment; it's not pretty. But then Emma meets Mustapha, this handsome, charismatic boy whom she at first, got on the wrong foot with by blurting out racist comments about Pakistan. It doesn't take long, however, for Emma and Mustapha to patch up and end up liking each other. However, add to the fact that Emma and Mustapha share kisses and longing looks, Mustapha is betrothed to another - Aisha. She is initially snarky, snobbish, and basically a spoiled brat all around, but when Emma gets to know a different side of her, exudes generosity, and kindness. The secondary characters - a mix of local and foreign folk - provide us with interesting cultural differences and shows us how something as simple as a kiss is treated in societal norms. We enjoyed the multi-cultural setting and it was interesting seeing things from Emma's point of view. Seeing Emma learn to accept her circumstances and be swept away by the magic of the culture was truly endearing.

Another thing we personally enjoyed was Emma's viewpoint of Manila. Not a lot of books - especially young adult ones - feature Manila as a backdrop, so we have no idea how foreigners truly view Manila. Besides from being the place where her family was last complete, Emma sounds like she's actually very enamored with the city. Her perception of Manila is so different from our perception of our own city that at times, it doesn't seem to be the same Manila at all - and we like it. It's nice to know that both the author and Emma seem to transcend beyond the usual perception of Manila. It reminded us that Manila isn't just a violent city filled with drug lords and gang members, but an actual, breathing city that is capable of loving its own citizens.

Our only issue with this one was that what transgressed between Emma and Mustapha seemed to be insta-love. After exchanging a lot of heated looks, short conversations, and a kiss or two, Emma's worries about marriage, and Mustapha's declaration of the three words only seemed to confirm our suspicions. It would have been nicer if their relationship was fully fleshed out. But then, these are teenagers, and while we aren't saying that teenagers aren't capable of being truly in love, we just think that this is the time where a lot of adolescents are confused about their feelings as well. So while the author may have delved into what teenagers perceive as love, Laidlaw also somehow reminds us that not every relationship will work out, despite the chemistry and (dare we say it?) love.

The climax left us feeling a little short-changed, the pace towards the end a bit hurried, and the ending a bit abrupt. But despite its shortcomings, An Infidel in Paradise may charm you with its delightful cultural nuances.
Profile Image for a_tiffyfit.
759 reviews92 followers
May 25, 2013
Imagine what it would be like to be yanked away from all the things that you are familiar with and comfortable with, and having to start fresh at a new place. This is bad enough as a teen moving from one town to another. Now picture all that and instead of a new town, you are in a foreign country where you don't speak the language, you aren't familiar with the culture, and its natives hate you purely because you are a westerner: white, blonde, and blue-eyed. This is what Emma facing and she's not happy about it either.

With a mom who is a workaholic and a dad who is living back from where Emma is from with the young ex-maid of theirs, Emma feels lost, unloved, resentful, and angry. At the new international school, Emma befriends an American girl, Angie, who helps lighten the angst a little only to lose her quickly adding anew to the bitterness and anger towards everything, but mostly towards her parents for messing up her life.

To add another straw to the camel's back, the boy Emma falls for (and he with her) is one she cannot have, they cannot be together. The racial and cultural and religious differences simply will not let that happen. Poor Emma is feeling sorry for herself with all of this, but the saving grace comes from the most unlikely source, her "enemy" aka "The Ice Princess", the boy's girlfriend and fiance. What? Fiance? Girlfriend? Yeah. Arranged marriage. There is nothing that can be done; it is an arranged marriage by both sets of parents and its part of that culture.

However, through that 'saving grace' in the form of charitable work, Emma finds focus and meaning in the sea of mess and misery. In the midst, she not only finds solace but comes to understand a great many things, albeit unintentionally. She learns that people are the same deep down, no matter the external factors. Within the heart, we all strive for the same things: peace, happiness, family, love. Although unintended, Emma inadvertently matures, even when surrounded by what she'd see as interminable problems and being in hell.

It is through the near death experience that she comes fully to understand and appreciate the important fact that above all else in the world, without your family, everything in the world is meaningless. It is the family that makes up who you are and what you are. When faced with the utmost, gravest danger, Emma fully connects with this fact and no matter what is going on in the world and in the family, they love you for who yo uar eand always will. They need you just as much as you need them.

Plenty of lessons learned in this book and a very good read.
Profile Image for Brianna.
368 reviews7 followers
March 7, 2013
A well-written book with an extremely unlikeable character. A captivating setting and premise was tarnished by a selfish protagonist.

Full review forthcoming on www.slatebreakers.com.
Profile Image for Julia.
29 reviews
July 12, 2013
i loved it i was intereaged the whole way through , and the ending is good just not what your expecting
Profile Image for Alisa.
244 reviews190 followers
February 24, 2013
I got this from Netgalley a week or so ago. I have never heard anything about it, but it looked very interesting.

Emma, the main character is pretty likable. A couple times, I thought she whined too much. Also, she made some bad decisions. However, she developed throughout the story, which was good. She had a backbone, and she didn't just stand there while people yelled at her.

Mustapha was a pretty good love interest. It seemed like it sped up a bit too much, at the end. Overall, though, he was cool. He didn't react like a typical YA love interest and just forgive everything Emma did.

The plot was a basic plot. There was no major surprises.

An Infidel in Paradise was a simple book to understand. I loved the setting in the Middle East.

Find this review and more at http://www.thereadingobsession.blogsp...
Profile Image for Mags.
126 reviews5 followers
October 8, 2013
Overall a good read. Excellent use of language, writing style, and the main character was well formed. The reader can understand her motivations, her feelings and her development.

Here were the issues I had:

I kinda wish we'd gotten to see the main character happy, because when the book begins we only get her memories of being happy. That is just my opinion.

I mostly felt that there are a few chapters missing. It's like Point A went to Point C, without Point B. Mostly I felt this in regards to the main character and some other characters. I get how they started and I get where the end up, but I feel like a few steps are missing.
Profile Image for Vidya Tiru.
538 reviews145 followers
November 27, 2013
For me, this read was a quick read that I enjoyed. I loved that the characters developed throughout the story though I cannot honestly say I liked the characters much. They endeared themselves in some scenes of the book but not overall. The plot was fast-paced but sometimes a little over-the-top for me.
I especially joined the scenes that Emma shares with the gardener at the school - those scenes were among the most realistic ones.
Overall, a nice quick read..
Profile Image for Leslie.
135 reviews16 followers
July 23, 2013
I was uncertain about this YA novel, but it surprised me with its fast-pace and appealing characters. The author's examination of the clash between cultures was well-presented from the view point of a teenager who is also dealing with the separation of her parents. The writing is clear, but not exactly exceptional.
Profile Image for Kendall H.
526 reviews12 followers
May 31, 2013
I enjoyed this story quite a bit. I love reading about different cultures, and having a Canadian embassy kid in Pakistan was a new mix for me. The cultural element of the story was well done, as was the realistic teen issues of parental divorce and possible school romance. I recommend this book.
Profile Image for William.
198 reviews2 followers
December 7, 2013
An interesting premise (Canadian teen in Pakistan) a bit undone by the characterization (I realize the main character wasn't supposed to be particularly likable in the early part of the book, but I never warmed to her). A strong three stars.
3 reviews
December 16, 2016
An “Infidel in paradise” is neither about an infidel nor set in paradise. A majority of people may agree that Pakistan isn’t full of rainbows but no place is, and a blood shed country is the perfect place for a know-it-all teen who’s “seen” everything to finish 11th grade. In this book you cannot tell what is fictional and what is real, so let me help you, Mustapha’s charm and affection is fictional, but her sister's annoyance is real, hope that helped you! This book shows complete humility, so if you rip the first few copies don’t be ashamed just burn them so your parents don’t see. I’m not saying this is a bad book I feel it’s complicated to explain, kind of like mars, the book is popular like mars but mars is a wasteland and the book can’t be a wasteland but it can be about a girl's heart which is a wasteland.

There are many humiliating and hilarious scenes in this book that can help you feel good about yourself. I think this is a perfect novel with lunatic popular girls and sassy new teens, with a hint of carefree boys who think they’ve got way more swag than the universe will give them. The best part in my opinion was when the most popular guy in school left his friends for the girls washroom and then kissed a girl while he’s engaged! Emma really hit him good in the beginning of the book when she was in his arms, but kissing in the girls washroom is a whole new level, in pakistan to kiss is disgraceful especially when he’s already betrothed. There was a lot of sassy parts but was also really calming when she could go into the school garden alone have tea and talk personally to one of the teachers without judgement.

I recommend this book to a specific group of people. There are a lot of people who could read this then forget to feel about it. I have a personal recommendation although this may sound impersonal, I recommend this book to those snobby, sassy, popular, teenage, junk heads that think parties, beer, and guys are most important. That’s what Emma thought (maybe not the guys) then her sister was put endanger and Emma found beautiful friendships and closer in a place where the most exciting thing that happens are called bombs and war.
Profile Image for Colette.
275 reviews2 followers
April 18, 2014
Wonderfully descriptive of life in Pakistan, this would be a great novel for opening teens up to cultural sensitivities. Readers will identify with Emma's struggle after her parent's separation and the level of danger from the locale adds intrigue.
Profile Image for Jacqueline.
28 reviews
August 28, 2021
Wonderful book

I read this entire book in one night. It’s not especially long, but still, I couldn’t put it down. I’m NOT a big cryer, and I cried many times reading this book. (I guess I’m still working through a little trauma of my own similar in many ways to the main character’s.) The main character is so 3-dimensional that it pulled me in right away. There were so many situations and emotions that i could relate to. In addition to the outsider experience and the family issues, the diplomatic type tensions and culture clash was very familiar to me - while I’ve never deployed overseas, I did used to work for the US Dept. of State, I worked with many diplomats, and I grew up in the military. I highly recommend this book. I think it might be YA (I’m pretty old to be reading YA, but what can I say - I love it LOL), but honestly the emotional roller coaster it takes you on is totally worth it.
Profile Image for Laurie Cybulski.
211 reviews1 follower
October 19, 2016
An Infidel in Paradise tells the story of Emma, a diplomat's daughter who has a hard time adjusting to the double whammy of being relocated to Pakistan and her parents' divorce. The best parts of this book are when Emma struggles to cope with the alienation that moving causes and the anger at her mother for being chronically absent. Those parts of the novel felt visceral and real to me. You could feel the turmoil from what was written.

The other half of the book deals with Emma making friends and navigating a crush on a Pakistani boy. Those parts were less well fleshed out. The Pakistani characters weren't fleshed out at all. I found it difficult to believe that Aisha would suddenly take Emma with her to the school she volunteers at. Aisha and Mustapha were flat characters and that does a diservice to the book.

I feel like the author tried to walk a fine line between showing some of the poverty and violence in Pakistan and having her characters be do-gooders. Again, this portion of the book is not fleshed out and could have been.

Finally, the ending was a little too neat and fast.
Profile Image for Hermioneginny.
1,240 reviews
July 30, 2018
Emma ha sedici anni ed è la figlia di una diplomatica canadese. È abituata all'amicizia a tempo, ad andarsene senza salutare nessuno, a essere quella nuova a scuola. Quando da Manila si trasferisce a Islamabad, il padre non va con loro. Emma trova insopportabile il Pakistan, soprattutto da quando ha conosciuto Mustafa, un ragazzo bellissimo che fa di tutto per farle cambiare idea sul suo Paese.

Deve essere difficilissimo doversi adattare a una cultura completamente diversa da quella in cui sei cresciuta. Ho avuto modo di parlare con parecchie persone pakistane per lavoro, e sebbene alcuni non dessero molta confidenza (non so se per cultura o per carattere), altri sono stati più che lieti di raccontarmi del loro Paese, del Ramadan, di rispondere alle mie domande. Credo sia il modo migliore per conoscere l'altro, il diverso da me: solo la conoscenza ci fa capire e ci avvicina.
Profile Image for Asha Loves Apple Juice.
100 reviews1 follower
February 16, 2019
Pretty good book. REALLY unlikable, snobby, disrepectful, main character. Would've liked to see more brother-sister relationship growth. Mustapha and Aisha were great characters; the opposite of the main character. The last 5 pages were boring. Overall, it was alright for a first book. Probably would not recommend.
Profile Image for Jay.
358 reviews21 followers
January 4, 2018
Following a Canadian girl who has lived in a variety of vountries for her mother's job, An Infidel in Paradise was a well written book about family and learning from new cultural experiences. The kind of book you would expect to see on a diverse reads lists yet don't. . .
386 reviews34 followers
February 18, 2018
A quick read. It's okay, but has all of the expected nuance of a Western teenager in a different land. Rebellious, spoiled and judgmental becomes "oh you're not so bad after all".
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