As soon as Mariam sees the billboard in Times Square, she knows that Ghazala is in big trouble. It’s not surprising that Ghaz signed up for the modeling gig, but did she know that those images would be appearing in public where someone was bound to see? It’s not long before word gets around the Pakistani community, and Ghaz is labeled a “slut,” and locked in her room by her parents who are threatening to send her to Pakistan to find a husband. So Mariam and Umar do the only thing good friends can do. They help Ghaz sneak out in the middle of the night and take off on an epic summer road trip from New Jersey to New Orleans. But the trip turns out to be more than just a rescue mission for Ghaz or a wild way to spend a college summer vacation. Mariam learns new things about her father and must come to terms with her family’s past. Umar wrestles with how his homosexuality fits in with his devout Muslim faith. The fallout from Ghaz’s billboard and her family’s reactions continue to follow her. And all three of them are have their own assumptions challenged as they face various levels of racism throughout their journey into the Deep South.
This coming-of-age story features strong and engaging characters grappling with serious issues against the fun backdrop of a road trip plot. This novel will certainly appeal to older teen readers of realistic fiction.