Blog Tour Review: The Next New Syrian Girl by Ream Shukairy

Hello, friends! I’m back with a blog tour review for The Next New Syrian Girl by Ream Shukairy. Special thanks to the TBR & Beyond Tours team for organising the tour and including me in it!

Thanks to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing a digital ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Click here or on the banner above to check out the rest of the fantastic bloggers on tour!

The Next New Syrian Girl
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 14 March 2023
Genre: Young Adult Mystery
Rep: Syrian, Muslim

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)


Khadija Shaami is a Syrian American boxer fed up with the expectations of being the perfect Syrian daughter. Saddled with a monstrous ego and a mother to test it, she will stop at nothing to leave Detroit and travel the world with her best friend.

Leene Taher is a Syrian refugee enraptured by the lavish lifestyle of the Syrian girls in Detroit. America is her fresh start, if only her haunting past will let her move on.

When their worlds collide, the result is catastrophic: To Khadija, Leene embodies the tame, dutiful Syrian ideal she’s long rebelled against. And to Leene, Khadija is the strong-willed, closed-off American who makes Leene doubt her place in the world.

But as Khadija digs up Leene’s past, a startling discovery brings the two of them closer together. As the girls secretly race to unravel the truth, their blossoming friendship challenges what each knows about the other and herself. And what they find takes them all the way across the world, back to the place of Khadija’s memories and Leene’s nightmares.


Islamophobia, the Syrian Revolution, depression, suicide (off-page), reality of socioeconomic gaps, generational trauma, PTSD, Syrian refugee.


Note: The quotes below are taken from an advanced copy and are subject to change in the final version.

TL;DR: This was a complex and emotional coming-of-age story about family, identity, and belonging. It shines a pointed light on the impact of the Syrian War on the Syrians in Syria, Syrian refugees, and Syrian Americans. This story is rich in culture and is packed with love for Syria as highlighted by the experiences of Khadija and Leene, two Syrian teenagers whose families may come from the same country but have entirely different life experiences. I loved how they learn from each other and grow together and the strength of the friendship that they form was really heartwarming! This took me on a complex journey of emotions and overall, I thought it was a great debut novel!

“That’s the thing about semantics: It shows that we only ever have a part of the story, and no one sticks around long enough to hear the rest of it.”

There is a lot to love and appreciate in The Next New Syrian Girl—from the richness of the culture, the complex family relationships (especially mother-daughter and brother-sister) and sociocultural expectations, the heartwarming friendships, and the budding soft romance. I feel like this is on the longer side for a contemporary and the author does pack a lot of themes into these pages, but I think Shukairy does a great job weaving an emotional, realistic, heartwrenching and hopeful story. Told through dual perspectives, we follow Khadija and Leene as they navigate being Syrian American and a Syrian refugee respectively and as they fight their inner monsters and deal with the direct and indirect impacts of the war that tore their country apart. We see their experiences as two Hijabi teenagers living in a country where they are treated with vile hatred, bigotry, and racism all based on how they look, what they wear, and where people assume they come from. But we also see them deal with really rough family situations, survivor’s guilt, and PTSD.

“I cry into my hands, and I unleash all the water that has built up from the heartache of the last forever. A scalpel has been cutting into my heart for years.”

“If I’m happy, really really happy, is it pronounced CONtent or conTENT?”

Khadija was admittedly not a very easy character to like and her portions of the story were surprisingly tougher to read than Leene’s, despite the horrors that Leene and her mother had to endure to end up where they are. Khadija is bitter, combative, and abrasive—she’s constantly on the defence and keeps most people at arm’s length aside from her best friend Nassima and Younes (sort of). Her attitude made her POV very difficult to get through at times but she grew on me by the end, as she experiences a lot of personal growth. Most of her attitude stems from the horribly antagonistic relationship full of miscommunications and misunderstandings with her mother; plus, she has an almost non-existent relationship with her father and a careless relationship with her younger brother, Zain. She constantly deals with barbs from her mother about needing to be the “perfect Syrian daughter” according to her standards and continuously falls short. Shukairy portrays their relationship in a very unfiltered light and we get to see the messiness of Khadija’s experience trying to balance feeling and being Syrian enough for herself and for everyone else while lunging for independence where and when she can. I came to really respect her strength and how she grew from being that short-tempered and judgemental teenager at the start.

“Hijab isn’t a source of weakness for me like Mama thinks it is. It’s the reason I strive for more strength every day.”

“He nudges me again and we might as well say our vows and he may kiss the bridge because this is way more touching than is normal for me. If he nudges me one more time Leene will assume we’re secretly married, and my mother will find out and I’ll have to join a convent and I’m not even Christian.”

Leene on the other hand is quintessentially the perfect Syrian daughter who respects her elders, cares for her mother in every way she can, and is soft-spoken and demure. But she’s hiding a big secret underneath the surface and the more we get to know her, the more we see she’s not really that “perfect Syrian girl” people see on the surface. Leene was an easy character to sympathise with. She and her mother have had to endure the unimaginable and her strength was admirable but her willingness to show vulnerability, especially with Khadija, was too. She doesn’t want to be seen as a refugee or someone to be pitied for all the loss and trauma she experienced, and she has a really fierce and determined fighting strength that I really respected! I had a feeling her story arc would go the way it did and while I felt this particular part of her story felt very rushed and packed in at the very end, it was a hopeful ending that left my heart feeling light—a welcome reprieve from the heaviness felt for much of the story (not in a negative way at all though)! I loved the friendship that she developed with Khadija—it’s always heartwarming to see how two people from such contrasting backgrounds can find common ground, respect and love for each other. I appreciated how the author also had them address their misconceptions about each other which only served to strengthen their friendship!

“Aslan, home is a place that is created from context, and without context, home is just a place. As long as Mama is there, […] I will have my family and anywhere could be a home.”

“Being caged with a loved one who cannot love carves complicated scars.”

There were only a few things that I wished had been done differently. I wished the situation with Zain had been done better because it felt very shoehorned in and again, rushed. I also felt there was a lack of nuance to many of the side characters who were there simply to push the story along. As. I mentioned, the last 30% of the book felt very rushed as so much was packed into it and by the time the story came to an end, there was not much time left to process or digest everything that happened. That said, I think this was still a strong debut novel that I’m glad I got the chance to read.

“We’re stuck in no man’s land, trying to be all parts of ourselves yet not allowedt o be either or all at the same time.”

“We are not our suffering. We are the strength that got us through it all.”

I would definitely recommend it to those who want to learn more about the Syrian war, about Syrians living abroad both as refugees and those born and raised in those countries, as well as if you love stories that are rich in culture as well as family drama (lol).

“Do you see how the Syrians lives?” She says the word like it means suffer.
“I saw how they live.” I say the word like it means endure.

Ream Shukairy is a Syrian American born and raised full-time in Orange County, California and part-time over summers in Syria. Whether in California or Syria, she feels at home where her family is and wherever there’s a beach. She has a talent for learning languages and is always on the search for the next place she can travel and flex her words. The daughter of immigrants, there isn’t a stereotype she won’t try her hardest to defy. She can be found reading at the beach, with her sisters watching anime, or playing volleyball really anywhere. She currently resides in Boston for graduate school.

Author’s Socials:
Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Have you read The Next New Syrian Girl or is it on your TBR?

12 thoughts on “Blog Tour Review: The Next New Syrian Girl by Ream Shukairy

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