Seema M. Fazil
Black Sheep by Na'ima B. Robert
Title: Black Sheep
Author: Na'ima B. Robert
Release Date: March 25, 2014
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children's Books
Purchase: Since this book is out of print, you can keep your eyes out on it in your local secondhand bookstore, used Amazon, or Better World Books. Or, check if your local public library has it.
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Dwayne, 16, meets high-flying, uni-bound Misha, and sparks fly. To Misha it feels like true love, but her mum is adamant that Dwayne is bad news and forbids her to see him. When Misha decides to follow her heart, the web of secrets and lies begins to tighten, for Dwayne is not quite who he says he is. And as he struggles to turn his life around while hiding his darker side from Misha, his ties with Trigger, Jukkie and the rest of his boys draw him deeper and deeper into gang violence, more serious and bloody than any he has ever seen. One night, Dwayne's two lives collide, with devastating consequences.
Finally picked this up after it's been sitting unread on my shelf for ages. This was my third book by Na'ima B. Robert. How could I have not read this earlier! It was SUCH a beautiful novel with deep messages that I'm unable to explain! 😭 I've got a lot to say about this book that I don't know where the heck to start! 😅
Na'ima B. Robert's Black Sheep follow a badman named Dwayne and a smart, uni-bound girl named Misha, who fall head over heels for each other. Despite never having been crazy for romance, I do admit that I found their young love cute and sweet. It gave me a little of the Romeo and Juliet vibe, especially with the fact that they grew up in different backgrounds. While Dwayne grew up in the bad side of town, Misha was raised by her strict mother, who expected more from her. I was really intrigued when Misha, despite her mother forbidding her to see Dwayne, follows her heart anyway and sneaks behind her back to see him. I couldn't wait to find out what her mother would do once she found out! 👀
With all the gang stuff involved, I can't help but feel how similar Black Sheep was to S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders. And I can't help but say it again: SO SIMILAR to The Outsiders! Jukkie, one of Dwayne's friends, reminded me of Two-Bit for his love of knives, and I saw Trigger, the head of the RDS gang, as the darker version of Dally. Also, the Larkside boys, the RDS' rival gang, were the socs.
I really enjoyed watching Dwayne grow throughout the novel - loved how real and likeable he was! In the beginning, I didn't care for him, but the next thing I knew, I found myself rooting for him as he struggles to do the right thing and turn his life around.
I was especially really impressed with how Na'ima managed to spread the message of Islam without being preachy, giving da'wah for her readers indirectly. I also loved how she raised awareness of how the media portray Muslims. I saw that she also seemed to raise awareness of how society views gangsters; for instance, how Dwayne was accused of cheating on a test when, in truth, he actually really did pass it, and how Misha's mom judged him right away only based on his looks! I felt sorry and mad for him. I also felt bad about how his mom gave up on him. Na'ima shows us that there is hope for gangsters too, they just need someone to guide them. I was close to tearing up when ***Spoiler*** Dwayne took his shahadah. ***Spoiler***
It may not have been much, but I loved the little bit of bromance that was added, such as, Dwayne referring to Tony as 'the big brother I never had', and Tony loving and caring for Dwayne like his own little brother. I would have loved to see more. 🥺
Finally, the ending was emotional.🥺 One of the deep messages that Black Sheep gives us is that there is a reason why God - Allah - sends some people down our path. I loved how REALISTIC it was!
While I loved everything about this book, there were only a few very minor things that annoyed me, such as, the use of slang that took me a bit of time to get used to and the description, "kissed his teeth", that Na'ima kept using many times. Also, is it just me or were there things that seemed untied? For instance, ***Spoiler***Misha never found out that it was Dwayne's little brother that robbed her grandmother - I would have loved to see her reaction, honestly.***Spoiler***
Overall, again, this was a very beautiful novel, and would recommend for everyone.
If you loved The Outsiders, please pick this one up!