You Think You Know Me by Ayaan Mohamud

You Think You Know Me – at a glance

The School Reading Lists’ five word review: Hard-hitting, family, tension, racism, friendship.
Young adult book title: You Think You Know Me.
Young adult author: Ayaan Mohamud.
Genre: Drama.
Published by: Usborne.
ISBN: 9781803704500.
Recommended for children aged: 14+
First published: Paperback February 2023.
This children’s book is ideal for: KS4 drama fans.

You Think You Know Me by Ayaan Mohamud

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Our review:

Ever since she saw the school website, Hanan longed to go to Grafton Grammar School. The green fields, well-stocked library and fully equipped science laboratories were a far cry from her early primary education in Somalia. Best of all, she saw it as a place to distinguish herself and start on the path to medical school, following in her late father’s footsteps.

Although her twin brother Hussein chooses the local comprehensive, Hanan is delighted to be offered a place at Grafton. But on her first day, she realises that her accent, hijab and skin colour marked her as not only different but also as a target for bullying.

But then, the whispers reached us. Quiet at first, until they grew in confidence.
One of them
Too many foreigners here

When the elderly caretaker Mr Fleming kindly offers Hanan a place to pray in privacy and away from the cruel taunts of bullying Jessica, an unusual friendship is formed. Over the years Hanan makes friends amongst her peers and by Sixth Form she’s part of a well-established group with best friend Andrea and fellow Muslim Nasra. The bullying and racism have not gone away though, with teachers generally turning a blind eye.

Over time, I came to learn that there was no level playing field at Grafton grammar for me. I might not have been the girl fresh off the boat, but I was the girl who looked like no one else there.

Hanan does her best to keep her head down, study hard and follow her mum’s advice that ‘a closed mouth is gold’. Andrea and Nasra however aren’t so willing to ignore Jessica and her ‘Mean Girls’ gang and encourage Hanan to stand up for herself, especially when Hanan’s younger sisters face similar bullying.

A shocking terrorist incident just outside the school raises the stakes even higher. A man is stabbed and killed in broad daylight. After initially dismissing the incident as another episode of ongoing gang warfare, Hanan and her friends are horrified to learn that the victim is Mr Fleming. And the attacker, who was shot dead by police, was Muslim.

You Think You Know Me by Ayaan Mohamud extract

Suddenly Hanan isn’t just an out-of-place schoolgirl, she’s a potential terrorist. As her classmates, community and even her friends start to turn on her, Hanan realises that she must find her voice to speak her own truth, to protect herself and her family, whatever the cost.

You Think You Know Me is a hard-hitting, modern tale of racism and religious duty which speaks out against violence and intolerance.

The language and subject matter make the book more suitable for an older readership and it would serve as a valuable text for reading groups where issues of identity, integration and loyalty could be discussed with older pupils.

In the author’s notes, Ayaan Mohamud comments:

‘The representation of Muslim characters in young-adult books is dire. It’s made even more dire when you consider the lack of characters who are visibly Muslim or who actively practise their faith.’

While one book cannot solely re-address this balance or represent all Muslim teenagers, You Think You Know Me would be an extremely valuable addition to a diverse library collection. Throughout the book, Hanan is shown to be ‘actively choosing her faith. It’s a beautiful part of her character’. She is an engaging, strong and identifiable protagonist for YA readers of all backgrounds and especially so for those who have few similar representations in literature.

You Think You Know Me would appeal to fans of The Hate You Give and This Book Kills. A large-scale marketing campaign is being planned and the book is part of the 2023 World Book Night collection.

Many thanks to Usborne for the review copy.

If you like You Think You Know Me by Ayaan Mohamud you might also like: our reviews of Scattered Showers by Rainbow Rowell, This Book Kills by Ravena Guron, The Silver Chain, written and illustrated by Jion Sheibani, When Shadows Fall by Sita Brahmachari, Musical Truth by Jeffrey Boakye and Taylor Before and After by Jennie Englund.

Browse our list of books for KS4

About Melanie Dillon

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Melanie has a Master’s degree in Information and Library Management; a Post Graduate Certificate in Children’s Literature focusing on the Reading Agency’s Reading Well scheme & LGBT YA fiction, and extensive experience working in school and public libraries. Linkedin | Reviews by Melanie Dillon