REVIEW: 'The F Team' by Rawah Arja is Unlike Anything I've Read Before
Hello Fellow Readerholics,
After what seems to have been another blogging hiatus, I’m back! Throughout quarantine I have been a truly terrible reader and blogger but alas, I do have a post for today! If anyone on here remembers all the way back to last year, you would know that I was lucky enough to interview Rawah Arja at the 2020 YA showcase. That interview was honestly my favourite interview I’ve ever been part of and it made me even more excited to read her book (fingers crossed we have a showcase this year, I WANNA GO BACK!) Also, I’d love to give a massive thanks to Giramondo for providing me an arc copy of the book for review.
Meet Tariq Nader, leader of ‘The Wolf Pack’ at Punchbowl High, who has been commanded by the new principal to join a football competition with his mates in order to rehabilitate the public image of their school. When the team is formed, Tariq learns there’s a major catch – half of the team is made up of white boys from Cronulla, aka enemy territory – and he must compete with their strongest player for captaincy of the team.
At school Tariq thinks he has life all figured out until he falls for a new girl called Jamila, who challenges everything he thought he knew. At home, his outspoken ways have brought him into conflict with his family. Now, with complications on all fronts, he has to dig deep to control his anger, and find what it takes to be a leader.
In confronting and often hilarious situations, Tariq’s relationships with his extended Lebanese family and his friends are tested like never before, and he comes to learn that his choices can have serious consequences.
I’d like to begin this review by saying there was a lot that I didn’t understand about this book. As a white female at a privileged school I will never know what it’s like to be regarded as a terrorist due to the colour of my skin or the religion I follow, I will never have to worry about my poor decisions making my ‘race look bad’ or of not being granted opportunities because of my socioeconomic background. It’s safe to say that I have a lot to learn but this book taught me a lot.
This isn’t a book that was written with people like myself in mind. I’m a female, used to reading about mostly female friendships, I’m white and I am constantly reading. I am not the target demographic for this book. This book was created so that Muslim’s, particularly Muslim boys (who really don’t get enough rep, I can not name a single male mc Muslim book) can be seen and have something to relate to. This was all heavily reflected in the writing. There were common experiences referenced that I had no clue about and phrases used that I had to google and I found that to be really cool because I was learning stuff that I wouldn’t normally know to look for! I will say, there were elements of the writing that was slightly more basic than I am used to and at times, I found Tariq’s inner monologue to be quite simple. Then again, I just can’t imagine not having my mind constantly overflowing and some of Tariq’s more ‘streamlined’ thoughts really did fit his character quite well! I was so impressed by the fact that I could enjoy a book so polarising to my experiences because traditionally, I’ve found it important to relate to characters where I didn’t really relate to Tariq at all.
I was absolutely charmed by the plot. I always have and always will love it when characters who hate each other are forced to work together and that was portrayed so well here. I don’t think I could understand rugby if I was left alone in a room for a week in a room with a TV that only played rugby matches but that didn’t matter! So much of the sport aspect relied on the feeling and the rush of the game as opposed to actually visualising what on earth they’re doing which I really appreciated. One aspect I could’ve done without was probably Tariq’s initial thoughts about Jamila. To me, it was bordering on insta-love and while I understand the meeting someone and finding them attractive, he was a little bit too besotted with her upon *looking* at her for the first time.
I was also super impressed by the surprisingly wholesome portrayal of male friendships. I so often read books about female friendships and I never really get the opportunity to read about teenage boys just hanging out with their mates. It was really nice to see actually and it presented a lot of unique, often humorous situations in the novel!
The biggest strength of this novel was the characters and the way they interact with each other. I loved how unique everyone was but my standout character (if you can even call it that) was the community of Punchbowl itself. Rawah writes Punchbowl as if its brimming with life and energy and I absolutely adored how everyone was kind of there for each other. I found there to be a sort of beauty in how everyone outside of Punchbowl hated it and thought it was scum but the people living there love it and are proud of their little community. I was also fascinated by the dynamics of Tariq’s family. I loved how they interacted with each other and the novelty, for me, of reading about such a large family is so very new to me! I really loved how they often clashed personalities but at their core, were I incredibly tight- knit.
This is a book that I think a lot of people would benefit from. I learnt a lot about different cultures as would many of you, I think. I really do hope this book finds itself in the hands of more reluctant readers, maybe boys who don’t see themselves in YA books as much these days (particularly contemporary). I think it could open a lot of people up to reading more which is always a good thing!
Overall, this book was a super light and fun read that still managed to talk about bigger issues. I’m giving it a 3.5/5.
Your Favourite Bookworm