I picked up Zoë Ferraris' Finding Nouf because another librarian said she wanted to discuss it. It was an Alex Award winner in 2009. Alex Awards are presented by the American Library Association to adult books that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 to 18. I loved Finding Nouf, and I'm eager to read the sequel, City of Veils. But, I can't wait to hear my friend's opinion, because I just don't see this book as having a great deal of appeal to a large number of teens.
The story pairs an unlikely couple as sleuths. Nayir ash-Sharqi is a Palestinian desert guide, working in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. When sixteen-year-old Nouf, a daughter of the powerful Shrawi family goes missing, Nayir is asked to help in the search. But, when the body is found, and it turns out Nouf died of drowning in the desert, one of the family members asks Nayir to investigate.
Agreeing to investigate as a favor to his friend, the religious Navir finds himself working with Katya Hijazi, to his discomfort. In Saudi Arabia, Katya's lifestyle is unusual in so many ways. She has a PhD. She's working as a lab technician in the city crime lab, where there is a department for women. She's not yet married at the age of 28, although she's engaged to Nayir's friend, Othman. As an observant Muslim, Nayir should have nothing to do with an unmarried woman, and the two of them could find themselves in trouble if caught together. Although Katya is frustrated with her country's beliefs, she is not as uncomfortable with their working relationship as Nayir is. However, they're both uncomfortable as they pry into the secrets of the Shrawi family.
Finding Nouf is a fascinating mystery. Although I guessed part of the ending, I was unprepared to discover the actual killer. At the same time, this book introduces two intriguing characters with backgrounds that are not familiar to most American readers. The rituals and customs of Muslims and the people of Saudi Arabia are important elements to this story. Zoë Ferraris takes readers into the mysteries of an unfamiliar world in more ways than one. Now, I'm just waiting to hear from other librarians. It's a wonderful mystery, a wonderful story. Is it also a mystery most teens will appreciate?
Zoë Ferraris' website is www.zoeferraris.com.
Finding Nouf by Zoë Ferraris. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ©2008. ISBN 9780594000563 (hardcover), 320p.
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