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No True Believers

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Fans of the riveting mystery in Courtney Summers's Sadie and the themes of race and religion in Samira Ahmed's Internment will be captivated by this exploration of the intersection of Islamaphobia and white supremacy as an American Muslim teen is forced to confront hatred and hidden danger when she is framed for a terrorist act she did not commit.

Salma Bakkioui has always loved living in her suburban cul-de-sac, with her best friend Mariam next door, and her boyfriend Amir nearby. Then things start to change. Friends start to distance themselves. Mariam's family moves when her father's patients no longer want a Muslim chiropractor. Even trusted teachers look the other way when hostile students threaten Salma at school.

After a terrorist bombing nearby, Islamaphobia tightens its grip around Salma and her family. Shockingly, she and Amir find themselves with few allies as they come under suspicion for the bombing. As Salma starts to investigate who is framing them, she uncovers a deadly secret conspiracy with suspicious ties to her new neighbors--but no one believes her. Salma must use her coding talent, wits, and faith to expose the truth and protect the only home she's ever known--before it's too late.

304 pages, Hardcover

First published February 11, 2020

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About the author

Rabiah York Lumbard

8 books65 followers
Alexis York Lumbard aka Rabiah York Lumbard is an American Muslim children’s book writer whose debut picture book, The Conference of the Birds with illustrations by renowned artist Demi (Wisdom Tales Press, Sept. 2012), is a contemporary retelling of the classic Islamic work by the 13th century poet Farid ad-Din Attar. Her most recent picture book, The Gift of Ramadan, is a heart-centered approach to the Muslim holiday that goes beyond food to the original impulse of the sacred month (Albert Whitman, April 2019). She has several other PB titles including Everyone Prays: Celebrating Faith Around the World, Pine & the Winter Sparrow, and When the Animals Saved Earth--winner of 2015 Middle East Book Award. No True Believers is her upcoming YA debut title, a conspiracy thriller with Crown (Feb 2020). She currently lives in Doha with her husband and three daughters. An active member of SCBWI and a current MFA student at Spalding University, Alexis regularly visits schools, mosques and libraries to share her passion of books, storytelling and the various places she calls home (Doha, Qatar, Washington DC and Nashville, TN). Favorite pastimes include rescuing Arabian Maus and kayaking in the Persian Arabian Gulf.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 99 reviews
Profile Image for Rabiah Lumbard.
Author 8 books65 followers
October 3, 2019
Rating for effort. I put three years of my soul into this baby!
Profile Image for Chandra Claypool (WhereTheReaderGrows).
1,553 reviews319 followers
December 1, 2019
Wow. This book is pretty powerful. Salma is quite the character and I give her SO much love for dealing with things the way that she did. Unfortunately this is all too real, especially in this day and age which is really sad. Dealing with Islamophobia, Salma and her family have to deal with white supremacy and hatred within their own neighborhood.

As we all know, kids are especially mean and don't really think about the repercussions of their actions. Salma being bullied in school, physically pushed and stalked and provoked outside of the classroom - oh my blood was BOILING. Especially when reading the part where there was a POINT SYSTEM to the hatred, like it was a fucking game. GRRRRR. To see how the staff reacted - some not at all and others truly wanting to make a difference. UFF. People. I loved that Salma did have a support system, not just with her family but with her two close girlfriends. That was a least a bright side within.

It's interesting to see that it's "easy" to take these types of behaviors from people *easier* when it's just happening to you... but when it upsets your family (sisters), then it's full on seeing red and now something needs to be done. But what's worse? Hoping it'll go away? Or reacting? When Salma thinks there's a conspiracy, now she has to figure out how to make people hear her before something really bad happens.

This is the author's very personal debut novel and one I would definitely recommend be read. It's a pretty powerful YA novel and while there was a part that seemed a bit too seamless, I thoroughly enjoyed this read. It provoked a LOT of feelings from me and is pretty educational.
Profile Image for Aj Sterkel.
781 reviews31 followers
February 10, 2020
I inhaled this book. It’s a “one more chapter” novel. I told myself I’d read one more chapter before bed, and then it was suddenly midnight, and I had no intention of putting the book down. Once the plot gets moving, it really takes off. You’re in for a wild ride.

The main character, Salma Bakkioui, is a fairly typical suburban teenager. She has a loving Muslim family; a shy, nerdy boyfriend; and a group of girlfriends who are always ready to party. Her life becomes more complicated when a new family moves in next door. The new neighbors are . . . creepy. The wife seems terrified of her husband, and the son brings Salma’s younger sisters lavish gifts. As the neighbors’ behavior gets weirder, Salma uses her (not completely legal) computer hacking skills to dig into their digital life. What she uncovers leads to difficult choices. Should she run before her neighbors can frame her for a terrorist attack, or should she risk her life to stop the bombing?

Salma is an easy character to love because she’s self-aware. She knows how to play to her strengths, and she understands her weaknesses. She’s always tempted to use her hacking skills for cruel purposes, but she’s aware of her mean streak and keeps it under control. It’s refreshing to see a teenage character who pauses to consider the consequences of her actions. Salma would be an excellent role model for real teenagers.

Salma has a strong relationship with her family. They’re a tight-knit group. They aren’t perfect, though. This isn’t a major plotline, but Salma lives with a chronic illness, and there are hints that her mother doesn’t understand what that’s like. Salma knows her mother is trying to help, but sometimes her help isn’t exactly helpful. I think that’s realistic. Her mother doesn’t have an illness, so she struggles to relate.

Speaking of important relationships, Salma has a sweet romance with Amir, her boyfriend. It’s uncomplicated and teen-angst-free. When Salma is upset, Amir shows up with coffee or takes her to the butterfly garden. They just love each other. All the drama happens when Salma and Amir are roped into the neighbors’ terrorist plot. Then they have to figure out how to save their own lives.

A teenager uncovering a terrorist scheme is probably far-fetched, but parts of this book are depressingly real. I’m not Muslim, but I have witnessed Islamaphobia. I was a teenager when 9/11 happened. A group of boys at my school suddenly became very loud about their desire to join the military so they could “murder all the Muslims.” One boy even talked openly about his murder plans during one of those stupid “introduce yourself” games. The teacher did nothing to stop the murder talk (or give the boy realistic ideas about military service). Similar events happen in No True Believers. The principal knows that Salma is being bullied, but he ignores it.

Luckily, Salma has a support system. She has parents and friends who will stand up for her. That’s one of my favorite aspects of the book. Even when she’s keeping secrets, Salma is never truly alone. There’s always somebody looking out for her.

I found this novel gripping, but I do have two complaints.

First, I think the secondary characters all need more development. Salma has a lot of friends, which makes sense because she’s likeable, but her friends are mostly just names to me. We don’t see much of their personalities. I feel the same about Salma’s sisters. I pretty much forgot they existed until they went missing. Salma barely interacts with them. I think more character development could have also answered some of my lingering “Why?” questions. Why did the weirdo neighbors choose Salma? They were acting creepy before they moved in, so did they buy the house to target her? Or was she just a convenient scapegoat? I don’t know. The reader doesn’t learn enough about the neighbors.

Second, the book is being compared to Courtney Summers’s Sadie. I think that could give readers the wrong impression. I wouldn’t call No True Believers a thriller because it’s paced like a contemporary until the last fourth of the book. Most of the story is about Salma trying to live her life while Islamaphobia consumes her town. It’s slow-burn. The book doesn’t become thriller-like until the end. I love contemporaries, so the pace didn’t bother me, but I want readers to have realistic expectations.

Despite my complaints, I enjoyed this book. It’s an engaging story about choosing love over cruelty and finding ways to make the truth heard.

“In the religion of love there are no true believers. Everyone is welcome.” – Rumi quoted in No True Believers

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Profile Image for Rachel Knuttel.
677 reviews7 followers
December 24, 2019
Thanks to the @kidlitexchange network for a review copy of this book - all opinions are my own.

NO TRUE BELIEVERS is out on FEBRUARY 11, 2020!

Whew. This book was quite the ride! Let’s do this in list form.

Things I Loved:
- The cover - it is sooooo gorgeous and powerful! Definitely catches your attention right away.
- The blurb. It is super intriguing and it made me request this book with no prior knowledge, which I rarely do. HOWEVER, the blurb is also a big part of my critique below. Stay tuned haha.
- Salma. Salma B. Girl kicks some serious butt and I love her. She is strong and sassy but vulnerable and scared all at the same time, which is very real. She loves powerfully and rages against injustice. She turns away from the opportunity to be cruel even when presented with easy and deserved opportunities. She uses her powers for good!
- Salma and Amir I love Amir! Amir is adorable! Amir can do no wrong. I love their relationship and how strong it is. I love that there is no drama about the relationship and that we fall into it when it is already strong.
- Family dynamics. The force is strong with this one, and I’m a sucker for good family dynamics in YA.
- Mysteries! Thrills! Questions! Answers! Secret societies. Scary plots. This story has it all, and once the plot picks up, man does it fly. However...see below.
- This story deals with some very relevant and important topics. It is so vital to hear from these marginalized voices and learn how to be an ally.

- The blurb is a bit misleading. Most of what it discusses does not happen until the end of the book or does not happen the way it leads you to expect. Which sometimes can be good but this time left me hanging.
- Pacing. This story is definitely a slow burn with loooots if set up. Most of the action happens in the last, like, quarter. Once we got to that last quarter, it was fantastic and heart pounding! However, because of what the blurb teases about the story, you spend a long time waiting for all of the action.
- I would have loved a glossary in the back to define frequently used Arabic words/phrases so that I wouldn’t forget what they meant!
- We never feet closure with some of the characters who give Salma trouble at the beginning. That’s life, but I would have liked it haha.

I was planning on giving this a 3, but the ending definitely brings it up to a 4. This story is for sure worth reading! It’s gritty and heavy and intense, but that’s what makes it great!
Profile Image for Gary Anderson.
Author 0 books84 followers
February 23, 2020
Salma is a talented young hacker, but when Islamaphobia rears its head in her school and community, her Muslim heritage makes Salma a target, both physically and technologically. No True Believers, Rabiah York Lumbard’s debut YA novel, includes plenty of interesting high-tech intrigue and Muslim cultural references, but both of those elements self-consciously weigh down the plot of this thriller. It’s likely that some readers will relate to or learn from those aspects, but No True Believers is at its best in the dramatic action scenes.
Profile Image for Stacie Ramey.
Author 5 books156 followers
November 28, 2019
This book was both ripped from the headlines and completely believable. Salma is a Muslim American teen who faces Islamophobia including subtle micro-aggressions, physical and emotional attacks, and a full scale white supremacist terror plot that attempts to frame Salma. The writing is fresh, the pacing is right on. Salma, who also suffers from EDS, gives a face to chronic illness in addition to her struggles with being accepted for who she is. Salma is a believable heroine with supportive friends and family and a totally swoon worthy boyfriend. Salma uses her hacker skills to figure out who is framing her. Taught writing and tons of twists make this unputdownable. Treat yourself to this incredible read!
Profile Image for Akhmal.
443 reviews41 followers
May 31, 2021
Rating: 3/5 stars

This was okay. Although I appreciate this teenage Muslim hacking-bombing-white supremacy story, there were a few things that felt disconnected from the actual storyline.

Mainly with how the book promises a plot about 'radical love' but then for a big chunk of the second half, it touches upon something else. As discussed in our book club meet this morning, I agree with how the book abruptly changes its tone from an ordinary YA teenage story to one more serious. It sure did feel like reading two different stories.

Ultimately, the book loses its focus halfway.

Even the first and last paragraph in the epilogue talks about a side character Amir and not about the main character herself.

Overall, this was okay. The second half is a fast read and it'd be interesting either as a limited series or an independent film.
1 review
October 2, 2019
The title of the book is taken from a line from Rumi: “In the religion of love there are no true believers. Everyone is welcome.” The main character and the author, both American Muslims, have each clearly taken Rumi’s point to heart: the real enemy is not the Other, but the human tendency to otherize your neighbor.

Salma is a seventeen-year-old girl living in Virginia who knows what it’s like to be otherized. She has a rare chronic illness that puts people off, and she has recently lost her best friend because of bigotry. Then, after a local terrorist attack, she’s pushed down the stairs at school because she’s a Muslim.

What’s really unusual about this book is that, like its main character, it never gets preachy in the face of all this bigotry. Salma struggles throughout the book with the prejudice she finds in her own heart as well as with the prejudice all around her. Woven through the book is the image of a butterfly, which is often used as a very outward sort of symbol: transformation means simply adding wings. But Salma understands that transformation of the self is a lot more radical than that. She says, “The caterpillar turns into a stew of enzymes and literally feasts on its own body...a worm...dares to imagine a higher existence.”

Here is a book about extremism that doesn’t fall into the very evil it’s condemning: the demonization of any one group. Instead, it recognizes that the origin of the evil we see in the world is not ultimately the Other—even when the Other is obviously evil—but the human heart itself. The problem begins inside. The caterpillar’s job is not just to accomplish a little self-improvement, a little outward decoration, but to dissolve its very core in order to be transformed, from the heart out, into something beautiful.

I read this book (an advance reader’s copy) in one sitting. Salma is realistic and engaging, the pace of the writing is perfect, and the author weaves in explanations for religious and cultural traditions unobtrusively so that the book is accessible to anyone.
Profile Image for Thindbooks.
644 reviews33 followers
October 20, 2019
*This arc was given to me by the author to give an honest review*
This book will change your life. A Muslim girl seeks her freedom in the U.S. when she is framed for a terrorist act.

This book is about the coming of age of Salma, the main character. She is brave and goes through many problems with this book which she solves on her own. The author put many obstacles for her to go through so that the main character will fight for her freedom and not be judged of who she is. I liked the writing of this story. Rabiah has written it well and explained everything that was going on in this novel. She wrote the book in a well-paced to keep the readers entertained with thrillers (nothing scary more like what will happen next). The author gave Salma a love interest, good friends and family to support her and help her to never give up. This book made you turn every single page until the end.
Profile Image for Ammara.
63 reviews37 followers
May 11, 2021
A really wonderful book. The novel talks about a subject that most people wouldn't understand and possibly seem baffled. And it's really sad to know that this is a true problem in our society. People are being harassed just like the characters in the book, although not as extreme. And it was really brave of the author to talk about a topic like this.

I thought the ending was a little rushed, and the author could have been able to elaborate a little more with the events leading up to the ending and the events after, but that's just me.

But, other than that, the book was outstanding!
Profile Image for Deborah Zeman.
711 reviews10 followers
November 8, 2020
This book had me hooked from the beginning. Hackers? Check. Edge of your seatness? Check. Didn’t want it to end? Check. An amazing story of one who fights for her rights and fights back to save her family. Salma’s detective skills were amazingly written. The scenes at school, when Salma was being bullied, not just by students but by educators and administrators had me squirming and wanting to slap these people for treating her so badly, just because of her religion. To point fingers without understanding and knowing the facts angered me. The love story between Salma and Amir was one of true love, not a typical teenager romance. Definitely a solid read for YA.
1 review1 follower
November 5, 2019
Salma is an American Muslim teen who gets swept into a white supremacist plot. The only way out of having this pinned on her is to figuring out who is behind the dangerous plot. Salma has a clear and strong voice. She is smart and a completely American teen.
The book is tight and has plenty of twists.
It provides a good shift of the paradigm for the Y.A. reader.

One critique: A basic Arabic glossary will be a friendly addition. While most of the terms are briefly explained within the text, not all of them are. You can’t generally find these words in a dictionary.
Profile Image for May Cho.
160 reviews92 followers
May 28, 2021
Mulling over thoughts. Felt like the themes were important, but the story a bit rough.
Profile Image for Alex.
161 reviews7 followers
February 21, 2020
I thought this book fast-paced and action packed. I liked how the characters were diverse in more ways than one. The main characters were extremely likeable. And, I really liked that Salma was a hacker. I just always think that’s super cool! I did think there were some loose ends that didn’t get tied up. I’ll mention those down below. Overall, I give this 3/5 stars because I am frustrated with the loose ends. But, this would be a PERFECT, #OwnVoices book to have in a school library.

SPOILERS BELOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(SPOILERS: Like, what happened to her bullies at school? Where did Chris Jr. go? Who was the man with the piercing eyes that was behind Mrs. Turner? Why had Mrs. Turner cut off all of her hair and dyed it black? Who was the man in the fancy car that visited Mr. Turner late one night? Why had Chris Jr. helped Salma that one day she was getting bullied if he was so racist?)
Profile Image for Laury.
Author 8 books49 followers
January 20, 2020
This is a taut young adult thriller centring around a Muslim teen, Salma, who gets set up for a crime she didn’t commit. This is no spoiler, you get this information in the opening pages. Like many young adult books, it is also a great read for adults. Honestly, I found it as tightly plotted as the best thrillers out there, only instead of our hero uncovering a conspiracy in which “Moozlems” are secretly plotting to destroy the free world, here a Muslim girl, with budding hacking skills, has to unravel a series of tips and clues, break into houses, lose tails, and do some baby black hat hacking to save her loved ones and the rest of us from [can’t tell you!]. Let’s just say, it doesn’t end up where the Islamophobes would like. 

Unlike most thrillers, this book does not put the weight of the tension entirely on the plot, here the emotional life of the characters makes every wrong move every save feel like so much is at stake. It felt to me like the emotional tension of HBO’s “The Night Of,” in which a young Muslim man, an excellent student and good son, makes one bad choice that destroys his life and the life of his family. The weight that Muslims carry, making one wrong move, that looms so powerfully in the book. We just can’t make the jokes, or post links, relax publicly in the way that non-Muslims have the luxury of doing. If we do, we are immediately suspects. Islamophobia haunts the lives of Salma, her family, and friends. York doesn’t portray all non-Muslims as Islamophobes, she has a breadth of characters from loyal friends to concerned moms who stand up for her and her family, just like we find in real life. You all are out there, and we appreciate it!

And that gets me to the thing I liked the most about the book, it’s realistic depiction of Muslim life. Look, Muslims are like everyone else. Muslims observe Islam in diverse ways, every one of us makes choices that are natural for us within our families, our communities, our wider world. Salma, gasp, has a boyfriend and a really innocent, chaste, and sweet relationship that harkens back to the “good old days” when kids could grab a kiss and hold hands and that was pretty much it. It’s a lovely relationship and feels real. I’m glad York did not portray her without the desires and feelings that most kids feel. I think a lot of young adult Muslim fiction does this these days, some kids remain fully chaste and others do much more. It’s all real and I really appreciate it. 

1 review
October 3, 2019
The book is simultaneously a bildungsroman AND a detective story starring a smart, kinda cool, young, outwardly white American Muslim girl who is coming to terms with herself as a person while also trying to stop a white supremacist terror attack.

This character, Salma, is important for several reasons. There are hundreds of millions of Muslims who defy stereotypical conceptions (from Russia, the Balkans, Africa, North Africa, China, South Asia, Southeast Asia...). Nevertheless, racially "atypical" Muslim erasure is a thing, not just in the Middle East, where the default conception of Muslim is still associated with those from the region, but also in the West, where fair skinned Muslims might blend in to society more seamlessly, but are nevertheless still members of an out-group due to their religious beliefs. Floating between communities and defying stereotypes in all directions, Muslims of both white and black backgrounds are rare as unicorns in fiction, unless they are being portrayed pejoratively as secret fifth columnists in some low rent Tom Clancy knockoff.

Salma is none of this. Her composite identity influences how she sees the world and interacts with it. She is a Muslim, she is white, but she is also a young American woman who experiences desires, anxieties and emotions that one would expect from a girl her age. She is utterly believable. Oddly, this might draw the ire of more conservative Muslim readers, who might object to portrayals of desire and other questionably pious character traits.

Nevertheless, Lumbard is not trying to write a didactic parable about the dangers of Westernization, she's writing a young adult thriller, and this one cooks. The pacing is steady enough for the reader to grow attached to the character and get a sense for her personality as the story begins. When the suspense kicks in, the reader is pulled along by Lumbard's dynamic writing and knack for narrative pacing. The storytelling is GOOD, and the ending satisfying.

I highly recommend this for young adult readers of all backgrounds (and adults in search of a great afternoon read).
Profile Image for Julia.
303 reviews12 followers
May 15, 2020
my first thought upon completing this is: lol wut? i was not prepared for the ride this sent me on. i thought it was about a Muslim American teen having to deal with prejudice and high school and stuff but it swiftly evolved into a high stakes national conspiracy that only our 17 year old protagonist can take on! as enjoyable and exciting as the drama was, it was so far-fetched and unbelievable that i just cannot really take it seriously. our gal Salma uncovers an underground network of terrorists and basically witnesses a murder via livestream and never tells her parents or calls the police? girlie..... what? i got very confused by the series of events, such as Salma breaking into a house and finding exactly the incriminating evidence she needs almost immediately as well as another character getting a QR code tattooed on their body that when scanned, tells Salma exactly what she needs to hear. the stakes were very confusing bc it started out as “my best friend moved away and my sisters are getting bullied for being Muslim” and then quickly turned into “i alone must thwart these terrorists before they blow up Washington DC.” i was ????? by the change in the stakes LOL. i did like reading from the perspective of a white Muslim girl whose white mom converted when she was younger, as i’ve never read a Muslim character with her background before. i also appreciated the chronic illness rep that is very present and in Salma’s life but doesn’t hinder her from being a queen! some authors just like to toss in an illness for diversity’s sake but Salma’s Elhers-Danlos Syndrome was at the forefront of the story and actually turned out to be a handy tool while she was out solving crimes 🔎
in conclusion, this definitely had entertainment value and i RACED through it to see what would happen, but the drama and how ridiculous it was just was too much for me. if you need something short and exciting to get you out of a reading slump, this is it!
Profile Image for Laura.
3,720 reviews95 followers
February 1, 2020
At times this was difficult to read because of the realness of the reactions of the characters to the "threat" posed by Salma and Amir, and the way in which white supremacists can appear relatively normal and can act less hate-filled than they are. And those schoolmates, with the points system, was very realistic. Not just ripped from the headlines, but ripped from the national moment in which we find ourselves. The ending however, fueled by Salma's hacker skills and a too convenient twist, wasn't as good as the start. It would have been a better conclusion without so much stuff going on (either no hospital, or no cab rides, or no EDS, etc.).

eARC provided by publisher.
Profile Image for Aya Khalil.
Author 6 books78 followers
January 18, 2020
No True Believers is an excellent book that is not only authentic, but well-written and captivating. Lumbard does a great job with the characters and Muslims can definitely relate to Salma throughout the book. I love the Arabic phrases used throughout the book, including Allahu Akbar, which is used by Muslims many times throughout the day. The usage of the phrase normalizes the word since it is often portrayed negatively in the media. Highly recommend this book!
Profile Image for Brooke Nadzam.
731 reviews5 followers
September 24, 2020
This is the story of a Muslim girl, Salma, who is living in the United States during a time when there are attacks and different militant Muslim groups are taking responsibility.

Salma finds that she and her boyfriend, Amir, are being framed as terrorists. This is a pretty suspenseful mystery of who is doing what and to whom? Who can Salma trust?

A solid read.
Profile Image for Sadia.
103 reviews3 followers
January 7, 2021
Author No True BelieversRabiah York Lumbard has written a book close to the political reality of this moment. Today January 6, 2021, when white extremists stormed the highest offices of our nation, assaulting our values as americans... Finishing this book on this day felt very serendipitous.

This book tells the story of a young girl who is suspected of crimes she has not committed. The protagonist Salma fights with her brains, with her heart, and with faith. She is a normal teenager until very strange next door neighbors move in.

Salma is a very believable character. I loved that she speaks and thinks like a teenager. The book is riddled with text messages and acronyms that teenagers actually use! I loved it. I also loved Salma's attachment to her family-- especially her white grandmother and her Moroccan grandmother-- and how differently people can practice their faith. I learned a lot from her story, and how quickly our identity can be manipulated.

The villains in this story are like our every day neighbors and sadly, the people we just saw in the news today -- white people with rifles, demanding a revolution, waving confederate flags, demanding that power remain vested in only them... The uncanny resemblance this book makes to reality is one of its strengths, and I HIGHLY recommend this book for teenagers, young adults. The book made me think that an alternate is not only possible; it has already happened.

The author writes in her author's note on page 292" There are desparate factions in our nation that are using the tactics of fear and propaganda to drive our country mad. To divide, dismantle and disenfranchise. And while I don't know what the future holds, I do know that with humility, self-belief, radical love new beginnings are possible." LOVE!

Caution for parents: there is mild drug use and cursing. I was not a fan of Salma making out with her "boyfriend in many parts of the book.
Profile Image for Edith Hemingway.
1 review13 followers
May 5, 2020
NO TRUE BELIEVERS is the epitome of a “high concept” novel—a term used by editors and agents, but one which, until now, I found difficult to define. The story is essentially a high stakes thriller involving a teenaged Muslim girl who is at first treated unfairly and bullied by Islamophobic students and school officials and ultimately framed as a suspect in a terrorist bombing conspiracy. It is through Salma’s computer hacking skills, bravery, and perseverance that she is able to uncover the conspiracy and redeem both herself and her boyfriend, Amir. But the book is so much more that a fast-paced, intricately plotted and suspenseful story. It is an intimate look at the life of a Muslim girl living in American society with insights into both the religion and loving family life, as well as the thoughts and responses of a typical teenager of any culture. I was alternately intrigued by Salma’s life and religion and angered by the hostile treatment she faced on a daily basis.

Throughout the story, Lumbard organically weaves in bits of wisdom, as in this passage: “But sitting here at the computer, reading this grossly arrogant document, I felt the same disgust, the same anger she did. It suddenly and viscerally dawned on me how a single word or label can yield so much power” (199).

Lumbard's description of a musical piece Amir writes made me long to hear the actual “oud” played live: “The piece that he wrote…was strident. Repetitive. Deliberately so, in the best and catchiest way…It was defiance with a bounce” (90).

And, finally, Lumbard’s description of a Blue Morpho butterfly is worth repeating here: “I absorbed every inch of her delicate glory. Her dark-as-night frame, her spider-thin veins. And what a color, a blue to which all blues aspire, so irresistible you want nothing more than to fold yourself up into a microscopic ball and fall inside” (71).

In short, every teenager could benefit by reading this book.
Profile Image for Hannah.
454 reviews43 followers
July 12, 2020
(8.9/10) - ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Let me start by saying that whoever was in charge of the synopsis really did readers a disservice here. It’s not that it’s wrong, per se, but it manages to both give away too much while also giving the impression that it focuses on something it doesn’t. My advice would be to go into this one without knowing anything about it, but if you find yourself here… well, that ship might have already sailed. My condolences.


No True Believers did a great job of both building suspense while simultaneously focusing on the everyday life of a Muslim teen. I thought that the main character Salma was incredibly well written, but the author also did a great job with the side characters, creating a well-rounded cast to play out this story.

My gripe with this one is that it’s basically sold as a hacker novel when in reality there’s very little hacking involved. Salma seems to know the absolute bare minimum about it, and a lot of the information she gathers is through good ol’ eavesdropping and breaking and entering. For a girl who is described as loving her computer more than anything, this doesn’t come through on the page, and I was pretty disappointed by that.

However, No True Believers also does a lot of things really well. I thought the pace was excellent, especially because of the mix of contemporary issues and mystery/thriller aspects. The plot itself, while different from what I’d imagined, is solid and makes sense – scary sense, in fact – and I had no trouble accepting it as plausible. While I can’t speak to the representation in this, I liked the diverse cast, and how it managed to explain culture without dumbing it down too much.

All in all, definitely a book I’d recommend. Just be aware that you might not exactly get what you’d expect.
47 reviews
June 13, 2020
@kidlitexchange #partner “Thanks to the @kidlitexchange network for the
review copy of this book - all opinions are my own.”

A debut novel, No True Believers by Rabiah York Lumbard works. The protagonist, Salma B, draws strength from her close friends, her boyfriend Amir, and her family even through a sudden surge of Islamophobia. What I enjoyed most was Salma’s ability to rise above the hatred she experiences developing her strength as the main character. Favorite quote: “The caterpillar turns into a stew of enzymes and literally feasts on its own body...a worm...and dares to imagine a higher existence.” While the topic is timely, Lumbard gets the point across without preaching or pointing fingers, but makes the reader look inward to a change of heart if that is what’s needed.

The power that technology holds is both inspiring and frightening! While Salma is a techie nerd which is to her benefit, it is a testimony to the dangers of the ‘underworld web’ and anonymity. Another plus is the references to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) and how this chronic health condition impacts daily living for those who suffer from it.

Another powerful book for the upper middle school or high school classroom, No True Believers emphasizes the strength of family, faith, and healing.
Profile Image for Christina (A Reader of Fictions).
4,230 reviews1,652 followers
February 17, 2020
Leaving this one unrated, because ultimately it wasn't really my thing, but I don't want anyone to hold that against the book. I use audiobooks to experiment with genres I don't typically read, because taste change, and it's also just nice to have a sense for other genres. No True Believers is a mystery/thriller. It starts out more like a contemporary about bullying and Islamophobia, but then transitions into something more intense, roughly equivalent to, say, a Veronica Mars series ender in tone/action. I prefer fluffier books, and this didn't really work for me, as it does not put a focus on emotional arcs at all.

One thing that I did appreciate greatly about this book, though, is that the heroine, Salma, has EDS. It's so rare to see characters with illnesses get to be the heroes of the story, rather than the book really just being about the illness. That said, I don't feel like the book actually explained much about it (which is both good and bad), so I was glad I'd watched Drag Race season 11, because Yvie Oddly talked a lot about EDS.
596 reviews
November 10, 2020
This book was both impossible to put down but also difficult to read, because the story feels so realistic. I loved the characters, I thought it was really cool that Salma was a hacker, and I loved how that played into the story. The book explores a lot of important themes I don't see a lot of YA books discussing. The only criticism I have is that books without LGBT characters and that don't challenge homophobia, should never have the word queer used as an insult.
Profile Image for Katdakoo.
228 reviews9 followers
May 23, 2021
Chaotic - part teenage American Muslim hacker, kkk illuminati conspiracy, teen romance, bigotry in high school ... ? It was easy to read and Salma is likeable enough but really i want a story about her parents and Amir’s parents, who had depth and nuance and smarts and joy.
Profile Image for JJ Kelly.
111 reviews1 follower
April 6, 2020
Gripped me immediately and I don't see it letting go any time soon
Profile Image for Emily.
51 reviews
July 27, 2020
Amazing read! It's true that the blurb is misleading, but this was a wonderful book. It's fast-paced (especially at the end), and it tells a story that needs telling. I was also pleased with the well-done representation of living with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. I highly recommend it!
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