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Mariam Sharma Hits the Road

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The summer after her freshman year in college, Mariam is looking forward to working and hanging out with her best friends: irrepressible and beautiful Ghazala and religious but closeted Umar. But when a scandalous photo of Ghaz appears on a billboard in Times Square, Mariam and Umar come up with a plan to rescue her from her furious parents. And what better escape than New Orleans?

The friends pile into Umar's car and start driving south, making all kinds of pit stops along the way--from a college drag party to a Muslim convention, from alarming encounters at roadside diners to honky-tonks and barbeque joints.

Along with the adventures, the fun banter, and the gas station junk food, the friends have some hard questions to answer on the road. With her uncle's address in her pocket, Mariam hopes to learn the truth about her father (and to make sure she didn't inherit his talent for disappearing). But as each mile of the road trip brings them closer to their own truths, they know they can rely on each other, and laughter, to get them through.

336 pages, ebook

First published June 5, 2018

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About the author

Sheba Karim

7 books151 followers
My fourth YA novel, The Marvelous Mirza Girls, is out now! It's a book that's very close to my heart. “Gilmore Girls meets vibrant New Delhi in this thoughtful and hilarious new novel about a teen facing family expectations, relationship complications, and hidden secrets in a new country.” https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5...

My third YA novel, Mariam Sharma Hits the Road, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3..., about three best friends on a road trip through the American South, is out June 2018 from Harper Collins. It's the first YA road trip book featuring South Asian Americans!

My second young adult novel, That Thing We Call a Heart https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2..., is out in May 2017 from HarperTeen. It features complex, Muslim-American characters who defy conventional stereotypes and is set against a backdrop of Radiohead’s music and the evocative metaphors of Urdu poetry.

My first novel was Skunk Girl. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3.... I edited the anthology Alchemy: The Tranquebar Book of Erotic Short Stories 2 (Tranquebar Press, 2012). https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1....

You can find out more here: www.shebakarim.com.

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5 stars
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186 (29%)
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237 (36%)
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89 (13%)
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29 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 144 reviews
Profile Image for Mariam.
907 reviews65 followers
April 22, 2018
i was very excited for this but it was underwhelming and uncomfortable at some parts especially when it came to omar's sexuality...
Profile Image for Cori Reed.
1,135 reviews379 followers
October 7, 2018
2.5 Stars

I am so conflicted on this one. I started reading a manuscript of this many moons ago and liked what I read, so wanted to find and read a finished copy. There is a lot of commentary in this book that is very important, but I also recognize that there are some flaws. Overall, I enjoyed the plot and think more people should pick it up and form their own opinion!
Profile Image for Jen Ryland.
1,477 reviews900 followers
April 28, 2018
Who can resist a road trip book (not me!)

This is a story about a group of Pakistani-American teens who hit the road, headed from New Jersey to New Orleans. One is hiding from the fallout after she's featured on a Times Square billboard, one is looking for her absentee father, and one is deciding when and whether to come out. Their friendship was great and their adventures were both touching and hilarious.

Read more of my reviews on JenRyland.com! Check out my Bookstagram! Or check out my Jen In Ten reviews on Youtube - get the lowdown on current books in 10-30 seconds!

Thanks to the publisher for providing an advance copy for review!
Profile Image for Arisha.
158 reviews24 followers
February 27, 2023
Still having mixed feelings

This book was meant to be healing, however it was not. It brought up valid issues within both the Desi and Muslim community, but it was overshadowed by the immense disrespect it showed islam. Its ok to not be religious and I can see why someone would become atheist, but you can do it without being judgemental and hateful toward religion. I don't know. i wanted to like this, i really did. But As a practicing muslim, I can't give this a good rating.
Profile Image for Kelly.
Author 7 books1,211 followers
May 14, 2018
The writing leaves something to be desired, as do some of the choices made in the story...but that is easy to let go of when you consider this is a YA book about three brown teens on a road trip from New Jersey to New Orleans. All three are seeking some kind of closure in their lives and find it on the road. They also dig into racism, both that directed toward them and that they direct outward. The exploration of sexuality is more shallow than I'd like to have seen, but given this is really Mariam's story and not Umar's, it makes sense.

Fun, with older teens (out of their freshman year of college), and with a good look at life as brown/Pakistani- and Muslim- American kids struggling with everyday things like family, religion, sexuality, and figuring out what it is they want in their lives.
Profile Image for Shannon (It Starts At Midnight).
1,138 reviews1,009 followers
July 6, 2018
You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight

I assumed I would love this one, based on the fact that I will never, ever turn down reading a road trip book. Especially when best friends come together to help one of their other friends, so this one sold me from the synopsis. Unfortunately, it didn't end up being as epic as I'd hoped. But alas, there were some definite high points, so let's start with those!

The Good:

It deals with a ton of really important real-life issues, especially in our current climate. The characters face some pretty severe hate in certain parts of the country. These scenes were painful to read, but obviously incredibly important, too. Especially some of the more subtle instances. For example, they meet a woman who seems nice and understanding, but has a terribly racist bumper sticker. And of course, she thinks she's totally justified in her thoughts (which she isn't of course, but no one is going to convince her). The characters have to navigate these awful situations that frankly, no one should have to deal with.

The closeness of the characters was really awesome. They had very solid friendships, and this was evident by the fact that they'd drop everything for a pal in need. I also really liked Mariam's relationship with her mother, as it was one of the healthier parent relationships that was shown in the book.

The Not-So-Good:

The Muslim hate. Okay- I am not a member of this community, and I don't want to step on toes of course. This is all from my (outsider) perspective, but I feel like it is still worth mentioning. The characters are quite disparaging in regards to more conservative and more religious Muslims. And that seems... really not great. Like it was hard for me to read at times, because I was so wildly uncomfortable with all the hateful remarks about members of the Muslim community. I mean, don't get me wrong, of course there are members of any community who do the things the characters spoke about, but that is true of all human beings. To make these jabs about Muslim people seems incredibly irresponsible- especially because they're never addressed or corrected in any way. Again- outside my lane, but very uncomfortable with the disdain toward any group.

ANYWAY, my friend Rashika complied an awesome list of books by Muslim-identifying authors that you should check out!

The other random hate in general. I mean- obviously none of us is perfect, and I won't pretend to have never been a little judgey in my life. The thing is, it crossed a line for me. I felt like they just wanted to snark on everyone, and that made me sad. And again, there is no growth, no point where everyone is like "wait, no one is perfect, maybe we should spend less time judging all the people's actions and focus on the internal!" or something. It's just... what they did.

I honestly just didn't feel a ton for the characters. Like, they were okay I guess, but they really weren't very fleshed out. They seemed a little.. blah, for lack of a better word. I never felt like I really knew Mariam, which was a bummer, considering she's the MC.

I don't even fully understand what the point of the book was overall? I mean, a road trip, some discovery about family stuff, and about self (I guess) but I just never felt particularly riveted by the actual plot of the book. 

Bottom Line: Great in theory, less so in execution. I could have overlooked some of the other flaws, but the straight up vitriol directed toward Muslims pushed me over the edge into Nope Territory.
Profile Image for Danielle (Life of a Literary Nerd).
1,171 reviews251 followers
June 5, 2018
“You’re thinking about it the wrong way. Maybe you don’t have to fit in with them, maybe you have to make space for yourself.”

I just wanted to love this so much and ended up not really liking it much and I feel kinda sad about it. Miriam Sharma Hits the Road follows Miriam and her two closest friends, Umar and Ghaz, as they roadtrip to New Orleans and discover more about themselves in the process.

Things I Liked
I really loved the focus on friendship in the story, and it’s what drew me to the book in the first place. Miriam, Umar, and Ghaz have a very close knit group and they love and support each other through it all.

I feel like all road trip books were made to be read in the summer and are always just fun, quick books to read that have adventure, laughs, drama.

Things I Didn’t Like
I didn’t connect, or even really like the characters They were all just so judgey, and not liking the characters is kinda detrimental to this type of story. I tend to judge contemporary characters on if I’d want to hang out with/be friends with them and honestly, I think hanging out with Miriam + crew would be exhausting.

The ending was super abrupt and didn’t really feel complete to me. It mostly felt like the story just stopped, nothing was resolved.

Though I was disappointed by Miriam Sharma Hits the Road and didn’t connect with the characters it is a book I think that other people will enjoy. It’s just one that didn’t connect with me.

I received a copy of the book from Harper Teen via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Tova.
632 reviews
January 18, 2019
This has pretty polarizing book, but like I think it's because people say this is a Muslim book. I don't think this book is intended to be about being Muslim. I think it's about identity and friendship and how sometimes that can get lost when we try to fit into other people's expectations. That being said, I can't speak for any of the rep, but I really enjoyed myself. <3 RTC
Profile Image for Abeer Hoque.
Author 8 books119 followers
August 2, 2018
Mariam Sharma Hits The Road is Sheba Karim’s third YA novel, as witty, charming, and fun loving as her first two but with a sharp political bent that distinguishes it from her earlier fiction. Three South Asian American teenagers go on a road trip from New Jersey to New Orleans, each of them struggling with their own personal demons along the way. Their encounters throughout the South, ranging from poignant to hilarious to ominous, transform their perspectives as well as their relationships with each other.

Mariam is the title character, a serious and thoughtful college age teenager who was raised by a progressive no-nonsense single mother. She knows practically nothing about her father who abandoned their family, and a recent romantic breakup spurs her to find him. Ghaz is the beauty of the group, and a vibrant sassy flirt. An underwear modeling stint has earned her the wrath of her conservative emotionally abusive parents, and she escapes house arrest to join the trip. Umar is perhaps the most (the only?) devout believer among them, a stylish snarky gay boy who is afraid to come out, fearing the backlash from his well-regarded family and their community. His car is their ticket out, and a huge Muslim convention in New Orleans provides his reason for taking off.

Karim takes on Islamophobia, racism, and homophobia directly and indirectly throughout the story, in many of the little and large ways that these historical, institutional, and personal prejudices affect our lives. One hard-hitting scene takes place in a Tennessee diner off a highway. No spoilers, but it’s marvelous because of how subtle, real, and surprising the events are. Another amazing (heart in mouth) scene plays out in a raucous honkytonk karaoke club in Nashville.

I was charmed by but also sometimes disbelieving of how loving and supportive the 3 teenagers were to each other. They’re besties, but I know few adults or kids who affirm each other and their relationships so articulately, openly, and frequently. I may need nicer friends and/or need to be better myself :)

The most compelling part of the book for me was the depiction of Muslims (and South Asians) as a vital part of American life and literature. I especially appreciated the gay Muslim plot line. Umar is in the throes of an existential crisis, torn by the seeming conflict between his Muslim faith and his sexuality. Karim explores this thread with sensitivity, nuance, and great feeling, and I hope it provides some solace to any young queer Muslims out there looking for community and acceptance.

I also loved the range of Muslim religiosity that the book displayed, from the atheist Muslim to the fully observant. I’ve often been jealous of cultural Jews, or Christians who only show up for the holidays but still get to belong. It doesn’t often feel like Islam, as is practiced by many, makes space for those who don’t follow every last rite and ritual. Maybe Mariam’s road trip will be part of creating that space. I’m already looking forward to Karim’s next.
Profile Image for ivy francis.
548 reviews27 followers
June 2, 2019
Full review: https://bookpeopleteens.wordpress.com...

Packed with snappy dialogue, this classic road trip tale will make you very, very happy. One of my favorite reads of 2018, the plot is awesome, the characters are awesomer, the diversity is out of this world, and the dialogue will, simply, blow your mind. You have to read this book. Rating: five/five

For fans of: Sandhya Menon, Paper Towns by John Green, And We're Off by Dana Schwartz

Favorite quotes:
- “If any of this ended in an explosion, I hoped it would be one that made us burn brighter, stronger than ever before.”
- “I have to take a big Frosty dump.” “I love it when you talk sexy.”
- “If anyone heard us, I bet they understood, because one of life’s sad truths is that not all of us receive love but every single one of us knows pain.”

Profile Image for Teddy.
877 reviews
August 17, 2018
OK, let's just start with why I gave the book 2.5 stars -- there were things I really liked about it, but there were things that I disliked & a few things that were outright unacceptable.

Things I liked -- I was in a reading slump when I picked this up, & the voice was good & bright & got me hooked quickly. It kept me reading, & I read it in about a day bc it had good momentum. I also really really liked that it was an #ownvoices story focusing on characters who had distinct voices. One of the MC's is also gay & religious, which I thought was an awesome facet to add -- there aren't that many YA books that discuss religion (especially in conjunction with queerness), & there certainly aren't many mainstream published novels discussing Islam & queerness. So those were really great aspects to the novel, that overall kept me reading & interested.

Things I didn't like -- There were quite a few, disappointingly.

1) Muslim rep. Now, I'm not Muslim so pls keep that in mind, but it overall felt like pretty yucky Muslim rep. All the characters besides Umar who are practicing their religion are shown to be bigoted in at least one way (racist, homophobic, sexist -- take your pick) or abusive. & aside from Umar, the only other ~reasonable~ characters are culturally desi but not religious -- it seemed almost like in this book you couldn't be religious & a good person at the same time. Which is pretty crappy??? Bc there are so so SO many caring, critical, deeply GOOD Muslims out there, & I didn't really see any of them in here!!!

2) Racism, fatphobia, etc. While the MC's do deal with issues of islamophobia, issues like racism
(towards black people) kept getting brought up in ways that felt like the writer was fishing for brownie points -- Look, I mentioned this important thing!! So Woke!! But nothing ever comes of that. & there are other instances where the narrator is judging people for being fat or for being rednecks -- not the best.

3) The gay stuff. As a more-or-less religious lesbian, I was looking forward to reading a complex gay character who is trying to figure out a way to reconcile the gay & the religious aspects of himself. & I kinda got that? But I also just got so. much. stereotypical nonsense. I couldn't put my finger on why I felt so weird about any explorations of gay culture at first, but there was quite a lot that stood out.

The interaction with LGBTQ culture felt so straight. Like, it felt like a straight person going, Oh, this is stuff gay people do -- RuPaul, drag drag drag, fashion, bachelorette parties in gay bars, sexiness all over the place, etc. And on top of that, while I think sexuality has an important role in YA, I don't get why the gay guy's porn preferences were brought up over & over while neither of the straight characters' were; it felt weird & gross & unnecessarily sexualized.

Also, um, why the fuck was the author using a slur for funzies, & how did her editor let that get thru????? (I was close to giving this a 4-star, but uh, legit can't do that when a book has straight people use a slur as a joke & like, not criticize that. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)

.....I'd paired my jeans with one of Umar's shirts, navy blue ikat with a Nehru collar. It hung loosely off my shoulders, hit unfashionably past my hips.
"Try tucking your shirt in," Umar suggested, so I did.
"Now You look like a dyke," Ghaz pronounced.
"A dyke with excellent taste in menswear," Umar said. "But yeah, untuck."

Straight characters written by a straight author have no business using that word, especially in an instance of lesbophobia -- it's 100% making fun of butch lesbians. It's absolutely unacceptable for a straight character to say that about another straight character, & it's not acceptable for a gay man to use that word either. (Just because I'm a lesbian doesn't mean I can call a man a f*g.) & on top of all that, straight characters also talk about things being "queer" without their gay friend with them. Again, queer is a word that straight people should not be using, unless it's in reference to queer studies. Just use LGBTQ or gay or trans.


3) The plot felt kinda eh?? Like, I know road trip novels are like that. But after It felt like nothing really happened to the plot after that.

I'm just very frustrated with this book. We need #ownvoices & we absolutely need Muslim & desi & religious&gay rep -- but this did not hit those in a positive manner, at least for me. & it's even more irritating bc this book could have been really good!! The voice is interesting, the voice & storytelling keep you interested!! But those other things are in it too, & I really really did not like them.
Profile Image for Aleena.
14 reviews1 follower
February 17, 2022
I saw this book sitting in the library and immediately recognized that this was a desi (Southasian) novel. Pakistani-American Muslims to be exact (yay!) I'm always down to support a desi author. This book is definitely not as simple and cheery as it looks, Karim addresses a variety of social issues including racism, homophobia, islamophobia, sexual assault, secular prejudice within Islam, and the b*tchiness of the desi community. The three main characters, Mariam (Mars), Umer and Ghazala (Ghaz) are going on a road trip to escape Ghaz's strict parents and take this journey to figure themselves out. Each character has a lot going on so I'll break it down here

Mars: our uninteresting narrator
- divorced parents, never knew her dad, goes to find him and *surprise* he's a total ass
- her mom is our cool, liberal ex Muslim, drink all you want honey also make sure you're being safe!!!, and she's from a Pakistani Muslim family, so this was unrealistic for me. her mom lowkey changed her personality for Mariam's dad and never changed it back
- she has the least personality of the three, like honestly, it's mentioned she likes climate issues and goes to Swarthmore, OH and also she had a white bf named Doug who she left cause of her daddy issues.... but that's it. she's surrounded by so many dynamic characters (her mom, Ghaz, umer) and sis is dryer than a desert

Umer: our ~gay~ character
- the way Karim portrayed this character was really bad but also he was my favorite so...
- his muslim-ness is written perfectly, he believes and worships but also doesn't judge! Perfection.
-His sexuality isn't written well. maybe the author just doesn't know better. He's like so stereotypical (drag, wears quirky accessories, is an old soul even though he's gen z) AND ALSO they portrayed him as a complete pervert, mans was watching p*rn in a parking lot and stole a guy's underwear and did stuff with it. . Whyyyy? Like I get he's closeted but Umer is classier than that so I choose to ignore this.

Ghaz: our resident "slut"
- Okay I have to admit that I have a love-hate relationship with her
- she's super judgy and is SCARED of white people with no reasoning. she's the type to get mad when people stare but she was literally doing yoga in the back of an open van. sis.
- She's a SA survivor, and uses hookups as a destructive way to cope, and although we receive info on the SA we never receive complete closure or any growth from her or her family which sucks but also the ending was hella rushed so maybe that's why
- Her mom is THE worst, she traumatized Ghaz and blamed her SA on her, she reminds me of some ppl I know, so points for the authentic b*tchy Pakistani auntie

I know some people have a problem with the Islam in the book and I don't love it either. Why do muslim/desi authors always portray super religious Muslims badly and even religious Christians?But then also don't judge us plz we won't blow you up boohoo oppression. THEY ALWAYS USE THE RACISM TO THEIR BENEFIT. But also don't give af about practicing muslims. But at least we have our savior Umer breaking down those barriers a bit before COMPLETELY REESTABLISHING THEM at a Muslim convention they were driving to. I do commend Karim for at least trying with Umer, but authors take note! We want more "religious rep" from ppl who are actually religious!!! But they're also kids so the aunties in these reviews need to stop expecting Roza (fasts) every Monday and Thursday.
Profile Image for Sana.
1,076 reviews957 followers
January 12, 2018
Such a quick read as well as hella readable since I read it in like less than 12 hours

Mariam Sharma Hits the Road tackles a lot of important topics from Islamophobia to queer Muslims (one of three main characters being one) to different types of Muslims and more all in a road trip setting! I always love those. Other plus points are the friendship, zero romance, hilarious and heartwarming moments and yet some of the things felt too forced and not executed all that well. So I need to think about my rating (currently deciding on a 3 or 4 stars) since while I did like the characters a lot (Umar being my favorite), I maybe wanted more from the story itself. Also, want to write down a proper review because I have sooo many things to say about this one; the good, the bad and everything in between.
Profile Image for mahriya➹.
121 reviews196 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
May 18, 2020
okay i've tried this three times now, and it's just...not working for me. and as i read more and more (page 120) i realised that i just couldn't ignore all the lowkey-disgusting things about this book? not my thing

i WILL pick this up again! I am determined to like it. I just, I've picked this up TWICE and each time get like 50 pages in and then forget about it?? idk why
Profile Image for Jennifer.
243 reviews
July 5, 2018
A fun road-trip story that also includes some opportunities to discuss heavier things like emotional trauma, bias/prejudice, and identity. There were a few cringey moments in the book (mostly jabs that are intended as humor), but overall, I really enjoyed the story of Mariam and her two friends, Ghaz and Umar. I appreciate how well the teens respect each other's needs - sometimes they give each other space, but other times, they force each other to deal with emotional issues and hold each other's hands throughout.
Profile Image for Summer.
550 reviews
July 5, 2018
This is pretty great on all fronts. Three Pakistani-American teens face challenges in their communities and the larger world including religion, cultural expectations, what it means to be brown and Muslim in the United States, and just plain becoming an adult and what it feels like to be separating from your parents and community as you grow up. Well rounded characters, authentic dialog that strays into edification but in a good way, a realistic portrayal of the range of adults in these kids' lives, and the absurdity, racist, and frequently contradictory nature of American culture. Highly recommended for older teens and adults looking to expand their world view, or to have it validated.
Profile Image for Marian.
579 reviews10 followers
July 16, 2018
I think this was a well-written book and I enjoyed it a lot. My only issue is that it is about prejudice, in this case against brown people, and yet I feel the characters in this book were very prejudiced against the American South in general. Sheba Karim does say that EVERYONE is prejudiced to a degree. Yet I felt this in particular was not in keeping with the theme of the book.
Profile Image for aribah.
6 reviews
August 11, 2022
2.5 stars (this is a long-winded review sorry i have a lot of thoughts LMFAO)

I found this book at my school's book fair and immediately picked it up because of the desi, LGBTQ+, and Muslim representation. After reading this book, I'm left conflicted.

The story revolves around 3 best friends: Mariam (Mars), Ghazala (Ghaz), and Umar. Our MC is Mariam. The three of them head on a road trip after Ghaz's scandalous photoshoot gets plastered onto a billboard in Times Square (she didn't read her contract thoroughly).

The road trip serves three primary purposes.
1. It's an escape for Ghaz who's been ostracized by the Pakistani-Muslim community she lives in for said scandalous billboard.
2. Umar, a devout closeted Muslim, is headed to the Islamic Association of North America convention (this is how he was able to convince his parents to let him off on this road trip)
3. Mariam is trying to find her father who abandoned her, her mother, and her brother when she was only two years old. She broke off things with her bf, Doug, because of her commitment issues which she links back to her father.

In theory, this book has a lot going for it that can make it great.

My issues with the book are really with the execution of certain ideas/topics within the book. For example, we have the stereotypical conservative, borderline abusive desi parents. Both Ghaz and Umar were raised in "traditional", religious households, which then means that within the book these two characters constantly lie and deceive their parents. I 100% agree that this stereotype of parenting is true, but when almost every example of parenting in the book portrays this stereotype to some level, it gets repetitive. It's upholding harmful tropes/stereotypes about a group of people who are already portrayed terribly in most YA novels.

Not to mention the only example of semi-decent parenting in this book was Mariam's mother, an atheist who no longer identifies with her religion or culture. And ofc it's totally okay to be atheist and no longer believe/associate with the religion or culture you grew up with but in this particular context, it gets muddled. It feels as though the author is conveying that the only way for someone to be a proper, loving parent is to not be religious and not stay in tune with their culture. It feels like the only way to be a good parent according to this book, is to become very American and abandon the religion and culture you grew up with.

I also really didn't like how throughout the book the characters, with the exception of Umar, shat on Islam. It's one thing to address flaws within the Muslim community, but it's another to have characters consistently talk badly about the faith. Ghaz literally gets angry at Umar for having internal conflict over his sexuality and his desire to still be Muslim. She outright tells him to just abandon the religion. Mariam gets intimidated by hijabi women at the Islamic convention, reinforcing the stereotypes that she claimed broke her heart. I understand that Ghaz experienced religious trauma (this was never explored btw, this is all kind of suggested), I've endured some gnarly things in the name of religion, but how are you going to have this one character shit on the religion throughout the entire book with no resolution to that? That's right, Ghaz never really sorts out her personal vendetta against Islam, but she does get defensive and upset when other people (specifically white people) shat on Islam/Muslims. Not to mention she literally says that she masturbated to a story about one of the Prophets. Umar is the only person who tries to explain the religion respectfully while also addressing the qualms he had with it. Ghaz and Mariam would both constantly judge Umar and the religion entirely. Mind you, both Ghaz and Mariam come from Muslim families (Mariam wasn't raised Muslim but she was around her Muslim grandma and her negative opinion of her is very clear) so their opinions on the matter can translate poorly to readers who aren't Muslim.

Another issue I had with the book was the way Mariam's character was written. I didn't feel like I was understanding her. It felt more like a narrator who was detached from the situation. In front of characters like Ghaz and Umar who are so lively and likable (when Ghaz wasn't being islamophobic I really enjoyed her character/presence), Mariam is incredibly dull. I also hated how her conflict with her dad is resolved in such a half-assed way. And for one of the main purposes of the road trip to be for Mariam to find and meet her dad, this portion of the book feels really incomplete. Mariam's character falls flat onto its face, and in comparison to other characters, she might as well be a third-person narrator. She falls back in front of Ghaz and Umar, and a lot of the banter between the 3 friends is really just Ghaz and Umar's banter.

I also think that Umar's character had a couple of problematic aspects (which breaks my heart cuz his character was one of the better ones). Him stealing and sniffing some guy's underwear?? Jesus Christ. Finally, the actual resolution at the end of the book left me confused. I guess the ending felt so incomplete because there was no actual resolution. Just hypotheticals. It's an open ending to a story that wasn't complete, so it wasn't fulfilling or full circle.

But I did rate it 2.5 stars so there were some redeemable qualities. I loved the friendship dynamic of this group. Seeing characters speak in Urdu and Hindi, sing songs reference shows/movies I grew up with hit me with nostalgia. I really liked the banter between characters, Ghaz cussing out Mariam's biological father in Urdu was just *chef's kiss*. When not being problematic, both Ghaz and Umar were great characters to read. Mariam too had her moments.

This was my first Sheba Karim book so I'm not sure if this is her particular style or not but either way it wasn't a great experience.
Profile Image for Rashika (is tired).
976 reviews712 followers
December 2, 2018
That Thing We Call a Heart was one of my favorite books of 2017 so obviously, when I heard about Mariam Sharma Hits the Road, I was ecstatic and ready to dive in. This review is particularly hard because even though, overall, I definitely enjoyed Mariam Sharma Hits the Road, there were times when I felt let down by some of the things the characters said.

I am grappling for words as I attempt to describe my feelings because I want to be respectful and clear that these experiences aren’t invalid but one of the biggest dichotomies in the book is how Mariam is raised vs how her friends are raised. Mariam grew up in a household that wasn’t religious or super connected to their cultural roots and her mom was super supportive whereas her friends grew up in religious households and have shitty parents. My issue wasn’t necessarily that Mariam’s friends had a complex relationship with their parents because of the way they were treated. It was more that the dichotomy that was created made it seem like, to me at least, that growing up in a more religious and traditional household was ultimately a bad thing? To add to this, there were a handful of jokes that the three friends make at the expense of people who wear niqabs. The real issue being that none of this was clearly addressed in the text.

It is worth noting that later on in the book, the characters have a very thorough and open conversation about their identities as Pakistani-Americans (or in the case of Mariam, Pakistani-Indian-American), what that means to them and the privileges they have in spite of the prejudice they deal with on a daily basis.

When Ghaz signs up to model for an underwear company, she has no idea that her photo will end up on a billboard in Times Square. Gossip soon spreads and her parents lock her up in her room. Potentially indefinitely. Mariam and Umar, worried, decide to perform a daring rescue and go on a road trip to New Orleans. Over the course of the next couple weeks, the three have a number of adventures, attempt to dissect their traumas, and figure out how to move on.

My favorite thing about the book is really its intense focus on their friendship. Mariam, Umar and Ghaz are supportive of one another, push each other to be their best selves and are also not perfect. Not when it comes to their friendships and not as human beings.

Mariam Sharma Hits the Road is a coming of age novel that explores identities, familial relationships and the power of some really great friendships. It isn’t perfect and I think it is important to be aware of the character’s prejudices but overall, I think the book is definitely worth it. HELL YEAH TO ROAD TRIPS.
Profile Image for Andrew.
1,506 reviews82 followers
March 2, 2018

I was so excited for this book, and I wish I enjoyed it more... it wasn't that I disliked it, necessarily, than just kind of tired at some parts. A lot of the dialogue and thought between the main characters just kind of felt like the rants we have in our head and/or articles we read about cultural politics today; comparisons of privilege, who's better off than the other, here's all the ways we're discriminated against for being gay or confident in ourselves... and these are all good things to think about, absolutely, but this is more of a book that you throw at someone who's off in their own little world and doesn't understand/think about these things already. I already read about and think about these things a lot, and I just felt bored. The same old ramblings that I have and read with others on a regular basis, not once, but several times throughout the book.

I did not care for another case of "our gay best friend isn't out yet, let's make him more comfortable by taking him out to drag shows!" I never really liked this concept to begin with, and especially now it feels tired and outdated. I feel like I'm in the minority part of the LGBT community where I think it's time to just let drag go/be its own separate thing. I don't feel like it's good representation, I feel like it's problematic and transphobic, and I don't know if the author is in the LGBT community or not, but I could tell she was trying to do good with it... but I guess for me, it's personal when I read the word "queer" thrown around, regardless of whether someone is LGBT or not, it's a sore point with me. And given the diversity of the community in these times, I just don't understand how drag still fits in, and I don't like how it's assumed that every gay boy is automatically interested in it.

All that aside, it's a quick read, brings up some good points, shows a lot of social issues regarding being Muslim and how racist people will react to their existence, whether outright or a microaggression, and issues that people also face from their Muslim family members for not being desi enough. I think it's an entertaining book, as well as thoughtful, and a good choice to put out there both for kids to see themselves in its pages, and for others to learn about different communities that they might not think much about.

Profile Image for Raven Andrus.
112 reviews7 followers
September 29, 2017
3.5. Really sweet book that deals with serious issues in a great way that's easily accessible. Love the diversity and the road trip aspect. So excited for more people to read this!!
Profile Image for lady h.
639 reviews181 followers
Want to read
February 16, 2018
poc kids on a road trip through the u.s.??? sign me tf up
Profile Image for Rachel.
473 reviews
July 17, 2018
Such a great read. It’s about race and prejudice and religion and coming of age. But all the while being a lighthearted and uplifting story of friendship. Even if YA isn’t your jam, check it out.
Profile Image for Mashaekh Hassan.
160 reviews14 followers
October 6, 2022
"So little of the world makes sense. It's only that most people either construct a narrative in which it does or try to ignore it."

It took me a few chapters to realize that the book wasn't entirely about Mariam, as the title literally says, "Mariam Sharma Hits the Road. " Although portrayed through a Mariam-centric lens, the story is as equally about two of her friends. Ghazala and Umar, the friends, come from stereotypical Pakistani-American Muslim families. Mariam, on the contrary, lives with her brother, Shoaib, and her atypically understanding mother.

There's no plot twist in the story, no excitement for finding out what happens next; still, it was a page-turner. The writing style is, obviously, one of the reasons. But there's more.

The book has plenty of sub-continental socio-cultural references and hence, is relatable. The author touched upon topics like Islamophobia, homophobia, and racism (against black people) too. The conversations among the friends surrounding the issues didn't feel forced in any of the chapters, nor did the characters sound socially aware to the point that they came off as pretentious.

The book has plenty of sub-continental socio-cultural references and hence, is relatable. The author touched upon topics like Islamophobia, homophobia, and racism (against black people) too. The conversations among the friends surrounding the issues didn't feel forced in any of the chapters, nor did the characters sound socially aware to the point that they came off as pretentious.

The personal struggles of Mariam and Ghazala are mostly portrayed through the empathetic gestures offered by the friends, unpacked in chunks of chapters. Umar's was unfolded differently.

The battle Umar was inescapably a part of - the battle of coming to terms with his faith and sexuality, is worth mentioning. As much as I hate the quintessential representation of marginalized communities solely for the sake of being perceived as inclusive and progressive, the debate between Umar and Ghazala, with polar opposite views regarding the juxtaposition of two different identities, is worth highlighting. Preferring to be labeled as a gay Muslim, Umar has his own interpretations of the constantly brought-up references that condone homosexuality. Referring to the same references, Ghazala has different perceptions and based on those, she thinks it's hypocritical for Umar to tag himself with two seemingly contradictory traits.

In the end, the characters, although friends, were not the best of their kind. They weren't the most empathetic. No wonder the story sounded realistic.

Here's another quote I loved and luckily cannot relate to half of it

1 I didn't believe there was only one person you were meant to be with. I didn't doubt I'd fall in love again one day.
Profile Image for Cheyenne Teska .
236 reviews65 followers
June 7, 2018
Mariam, Umar, and Ghaz are three teens who have been emotionally damaged and scarred by their parents in very different ways. Each of them, finding friendship and loyalty in each other, decide to go on a spontaneous road trip. Along the way- like any good road trip story- the characters find themselves and come to realize that what they've got and who they are is better than what they've been chasing their entire lives.

Mariam's father abandoned her family when she was only two years old. She's always wanted to know more about him, but her mother erased him from their lives. She never even spoke much of him. Umar comes from a very religious Muslim family, but he's gay and doesn't know how to fulfill that part of his life openly when he knows he would likely be disowned if he ever came out to them. When Ghaz gets in trouble for a risque photoshoot, Mariam and Umar come together to rescue her, Rapunzel style. They hit the road with one destination in mind: New Orleans. With a car, your best friends, and a set of fake IDs, anything is possible.

I loved the character dynamics and the topics that this books touched on. Mariam and her friends learn that you don't always need the traditional idea of a family; they're each other's family. Racism and Islamophobia is present in this book as well, which I haven't gotten the chance to experience in many YA books thus far. Going on a road trip through the south, you come across the narrow-mindedness of some, but can be pleasantly surprised by the understanding of others and I felt that this was an important lesson in this book.

Overall, I loved every second of Mariam Sharma Hits the Road! There are great friendships, personal growth, and a ton of hilarious one-liners. I especially enjoyed the fact that I'd been to a few of the locations mentioned in the book on a road trip of my own a couple years back. It felt like I could relate to the characters even more! I would definitely recommend to anyone in all walks of life, because it's a very relatable and heartwarming story.
Profile Image for Claire.
797 reviews93 followers
March 29, 2019
Raunchy, fast-paced, fun road trip novel!

Honestly, my favorite part of this was Mariam's wonderful mom and their relationship. It felt kind of like how some genre romance does the job of modeling really great communication and how to be in an adult relationship.

My stars are tentative, though, given with the grain of salt that some Muslim reviewers felt that this was really not positive Muslim representation and had an unpleasantly not-like-other-Muslims vibe. (Others disagreed.) I don't have the authority or knowledge to make my own judgment there, so amplifying the concerns raised by others! I'll probably be cautious about adding it to lists or recommending it widely, though, due to those reviews.
Profile Image for Alisha.
4 reviews
July 8, 2022
i feel like mariam felt more muslim than ghaze even tho she was muslim. imo ghaze talked why too much; and had a comment for everything. the plot was just bad. in some parts even tho all 3 were together, only one was talking the whole time and there was no mention of the other two. it was a quick read tho.
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