Debut author Aminah Mae Safi's honest and smart young adult novel is about how easy it can be to hurt those around you even ifespecially ifyou love them.
Lulu Saad doesn't need your advice, thank you very much. She's got her three best friends and nothing can stop her from conquering the known world. Sure, for half a minute she thought she’d nearly drowned a cute guy at a party, but he was totally faking it. And fine, yes, she caused a scene during Ramadan. It's all under control. Ish.
Except maybe this time she’s done a little more damage than she realizes. And if Lulu can't find her way out of this mess soon, she'll have to do more than repair friendships, family alliances, and wet clothing. She'll have to go looking for herself.
Praise for Not the Girls You're Looking For:
"Safi’s prose style has a lively staccato rhythm that captures Lulu’s spirited nature. . .In addition to Safi’s focus on multicultural identity, her story provides a candid perspective on female friendships that are full of conflict, love, and angst. . .Safi offers a refreshing perspective on conformity and the path to self-actualization." Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Safi’s debut novel offers Arab and Muslim readers a teenager they can relate to as they too learn to navigate racial and religious tensions in a predominantly white society. Delightful and funny but still giving voice to serious issues of sexual consent and xenophobia." Kirkus Reviews
|Publisher:||Feiwel & Friends|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.30(d)|
|Age Range:||13 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Aminah Mae Safi is a Muslim-American writer. Safi was the winner of the We Need Diverse Books short story contest, and that story appears in the anthology Fresh Ink. She lives in Los Angeles, California, with her partner and cat. Aminah is the author of Not the Girls You're Looking For.
Read an Excerpt
Lulu swatted her way through the unfamiliar coat closet. After tearing down several of what felt like rather expensive fur coats and a couple of potentially cashmere jackets off their hooks, she managed to hit her head against a dangling light switch chain. She swore. Not that there was anyone left to hear her. She pulled the switch, located the closet door, and made her swift exit. She looked left, then she looked right. The coast was clear. She took a deep, relieved breath. What a night it had already been.
Of course, that's when she heard the tutting. Across the hall, Dane Anderson perked up from his lean against the wall. He was the sort of boy who was extensively practiced at leaning against things — walls, lockers, overly large trucks. He was an expert leaner. The only light in the hallway was that streaming out of the closet, and as Dane moved toward her, his face shifted from the shadows to the light.
Lulu stopped straightening out her clothing. She was acutely aware of every tousled hair on her head. She could feel the back zipper of her skirt disobediently tickling her hip. She assumed her shirt was buttoned back up incorrectly, because that was the sort of luck she had. But she'd be damned if she let her nerves show. Not to him.
Because nature had already given Dane Anderson plenty. His sandy brown hair waved beautifully, effortlessly. His warm, friendly eyes were heavy-lidded and half-open. Whether that was from alcohol or the sudden light, it was difficult to say. The sleeves to his oxford shirt were rolled lazily up to reveal his suntanned, muscular forearms. The top of the shirt was unbuttoned so as to display his crisp white undershirt. His throat bobbed. "Qu'est-ce qui se passe avec toi?"
Lulu blinked. What was going on with her? Nothing. Nothing at all. The hallway filled with her silence. She stole a glance at the stairway. She could hear the muffled din of the party below.
Before she could move, Dane took a step forward and put his hand on the wall, his arm blocking her path to escape. "You gonna answer the question, honey, or do you need it in English?" Lulu's heart hammered so hard that her pulse rang in her own ears. Retreating back into the closet wasn't an option. Not with Dane. Not when they were so alone. But he wasn't one to fight fair, either.
"Nothing's up with me," she said.
"I can see that." Dane eyed her from head to toe, back to head again. His gaze lingered in the middle.
Lulu took a shallow breath. Then another as her stomach clenched. She had to find some scrap of truth to throw his way. "I fell."
"Fall in all by yourself, did you?" A grin pulled at Dane's mouth. It was a Clark Gable kind of grin — all charm and menace. Another gift of his birth and breeding.
"Maybe. Why do you care?" Lulu looked him dead in the eye. That was her first mistake. Dane had beautiful eyes. They were brown with flecks of green in them, dusted with thick lashes. Lulu gripped the wall behind her, a spin overtaking her head. It was all the alcohol she had drunk. Alcohol spins. Not beautiful, terrible boy spins.
Dane closed the gap between their bodies to next to nothing. Lulu — God help her — flattened her back against the wall. Dane had never been unaware of the effect he had on women. Lulu had never been unaware of the effect Dane had on her. In that, at least, they were equals.
"Why don't you like me, Lulu?" Even slurring slightly, he sounded like he had a thousand years of good ol' boys behind him, like he could carry a thousand more after him. There had been four generations in his line — he, after all, was only Daniel Dodge Anderson IV. But his voice bore the weight of a never-ending, never-broken string of gentlemen. A voice of infinity. "Why can't we be friendly?"
"You know why." Lulu gritted her teeth.
Dane's expression stretched into a full-blown, Cheshire cat grin. The world tilted on its axis slightly. Lulu could have had a crush on him for three weeks straight if she'd wanted, at the mere flash of this smile. In fact, at some point in her freshman year, she had. And that was two years ago. Lulu willed her breath even and buried that feeling away as deeply as she could. Lulu didn't think about freshman year, if she could help it.
"Explain it again." His breath fanned across her cheek as he leaned in.
Lulu's mouth fell open, ever so slightly. Why couldn't nice boys smell like peppermint and gin?
Lulu offered up a silent prayer to whoever watched over the dignity of girls like her. Soft, cold lips whispered against hers when a series of repetitive thunks echoed up the stairs. Dane looked up — toward the sound. Lulu didn't think; she simply took advantage and ducked under his arm. She fled toward the stairs.
Unfortunately, Lulu hardly looked up as she ran away from Dane. She smacked right into a tall, lanky boy — more limbs than anything else. Limbs she fell into, like some horrible moment in a rom-com. She disentangled herself with much more effort than it should have taken.
Lulu clenched her hand into a fist. The boy raised his arms as if to say, "Whoa, lady. Not my fault." Fine. Not his fault. Nobody's fault but her own. She relaxed her hand; the boy nodded like he appreciated the restraint.
Lulu leaped down the steps — two at a time — toward the safety of the ground floor. Toward people. Toward Audrey and whatever lecture was in store from that quarter. From above, Lulu heard the boys' subdued voices. She didn't stop moving until the sound was a distant memory. Until the cacophony of the kitchen swallowed her up.
* * *
In hindsight, Lulu ought to have fixed her shirt before looking for Audrey.
Audrey Bachmann took in Lulu's state of undress and in less than half a second had pulled Lulu out of the kitchen and into a quieter, less populated room. Audrey might have been holding a red Solo cup, but her white and pink floral sundress was still spotless and unrumpled. Her face was flush — she must have only been half a drink into her evening — but her fair hair was still smooth and neat.
"Hold this." Audrey handed Lulu her drink cup. She pinched a lock of Lulu's hair between her fingers, then dropped it with a sigh. Audrey fussed over the buttons on Lulu's shirt — unbuttoning then smoothing as she rebuttoned.
Lulu swatted away Audrey's hands. One mother was enough.
"Aren't you going to let me lend a hand at all?" Audrey's voice was more of a screech and less of a question.
The wild hammering in Lulu's heart had faded to nothing. Her head swam. Relief hollowed Lulu out, leaving her dizzy. Behind her was an inevitability she'd avoided for now. Ahead were only consequences and a lecture. A desire to lash out tore through her, obstructing any number of reasonable thoughts in her head. "No."
Audrey jerked so hard on Lulu's shirt that the drink in Lulu's hand jostled. Sticky pink liquid splashed across both of their clothes. Because of course it would.
"Fantastic," muttered Audrey. "Now we'll for sure smell like liquor when we get back to my house. You better pray my mother isn't awake."
"You could've set your drink down."
Audrey's lips pressed into a firm line. She snatched the cup from Lulu's hands and threw back the rest of her drink in one swallow. "Fine. I'm getting a refill. Deal with your boy drama all by yourself."
Lulu winced as she watched Audrey turn on her heels. That wobbly, hollowing nothing surged again. Lulu didn't want to be responsible for Audrey spiraling tonight, too. "Wait," she called.
Audrey whipped back around.
"I got stuck in a hall closet with Brian," said Lulu.
As anticipated, Audrey wiped her hand down her face in pure exasperation. "How stuck?" Lulu ran through any number of explanations she could have given. Entangled in his arms and mouth. Pressed up against coat hangers and a wooden closet rod. Pinned by her own curiosity but not by any real interest. She settled on, "Very."
Audrey reached out and smoothed the front of Lulu's shirt, then tugged the bottom hem. This time, Lulu let her.
"What the fuck, Lulu?" said Audrey, nearly at a whisper. Audrey didn't say curse words at full volume if she could help it.
"I was promised a telescope."
"Naturally." Audrey tried to take a drink out of her cup, then scowled. She must have forgotten she'd finished it. She set the empty cup onto a sideboard with one of the provided coasters there. She turned her glare onto Lulu. "They're not all your big brothers. You have to be careful."
Lulu giggled, as though she were teetering off the edge of a cliff and laughter would steer her away from a plunge. Her brothers weren't here right now, thank God. They were away at school. "It was only Brian."
Audrey arched a perfectly manicured eyebrow. "Did anyone see you?"
Audrey pinched the bridge of her nose. "Thank goodness."
The sting of Audrey's judgment lit a fire in Lulu's temper again, at least keeping her away from that awful, flooding nothing. "Well, screw you, too."
Audrey closed her eyes for a moment. She took a deep breath before she reopened them. "I'm looking out for you, you know. Keeping your reputation intact."
"Joke's on you, 'cause I don't have a tactful reputation." Lulu forced out a single laugh.
Audrey raised her eyebrow again. "As soon as you're finished throwing your little theatrics, I'm going to get another drink." That was pure Mrs. Bachmann, Audrey's mother. Audrey looked down her straight, aquiline nose and everything.
"I'm only getting started." Lulu put a hand on her hip. She had never been cowed by that look when Mrs. Bachmann gave it, and she wouldn't quaver before it now. Except as she jutted her hip, Lulu's jelly legs finally gave out. She wobbled once, then simply toppled to the ground. She landed with her legs splayed and her tailbone potentially bruised. She could already tell she was going to feel wonderful tomorrow, even if the liquor was taking the edge off tonight.
Audrey sighed. She bent over, holding out her hands. Lulu pushed herself up halfway, then accepted the offering. Audrey yanked Lulu to her feet.
"I need a fresh drink," said Audrey at the same time as Lulu said, "I need some air."
The two stared at each other for a long, silent moment.
"I just need to breathe, Audrey Louise," said Lulu. "I'm not sick or anything. Closets aren't as roomy as they look. Swear." Lulu held out her pinkie.
Audrey groaned but locked it with her own. They touched thumbs and twisted their hooked pinkies apart. That was still sacrosanct between them.
"Be good," Audrey said, her tone still sharp. Judgment came so easily to her.
"I always am." Lulu was sure of her success. It's not like she could get into much trouble outside.
* * *
The back corner of the large, rectangular pool was banked by reclining chairs — not the blue kind you'd find at a community pool. These were impossibly white and elegantly shaped. Still, they were slatted, and Lulu anticipated the wide, cherry-red stripes that they would imprint onto the backs of her thighs. She sloshed her foot through the pool briefly before she flopped onto one of them. She sprawled out, trying to relax. A littering of plastic cups indicated that whatever crowd had been out here had already migrated back in again, deterred by the wet, heavy air of Southeast Texas.
Wet, heavy air that was becoming a problem.
Though the season was technically fall, summer lingered. The humidity that stifled her breath also pushed her previously tamed mane outward into puffy spirals. She was not Lo — and everyone called Dolores Campo Lo — who never let humidity alter her appearance. No, Lulu's hair would be ruined. A necessary casualty of the evening, along with her tailbone and her pride. Lulu closed her eyes; she was going to ride the melt. At least until the spinning stopped.
A scraping noise sounded — metal on concrete. Lulu's eyes flew open. Around the corner of the pool and three chairs over from her, the boy she'd run into upstairs was adjusting the back of one of the recliners to a more upward position.
Or, he was trying to. The metal must have been stuck in its hinges, rusted over from the humidity. Lulu watched as he dragged the chair back and forth, trying to jiggle the joint free. But the chair would not come unstuck from its current position. That piercing, grating noise continued.
Lulu coughed. The boy's head snapped up. His eyes widened momentarily with recognition. He must have thought she'd been passed out. He must have wanted to avoid any interaction. Lulu swiped her teeth with her tongue, waiting. He eyed her, then the chair in his hands, seemingly unsure of what he should do next.
Lulu pointed two chairs over from herself. "That one's already in the upright-and-locked position."
The boy stood frozen like a deer in the headlights. Or a cartoon rabbit caught in the gaze of a hypnotizing snake. Lulu didn't look away. She bit the inside of her mouth to prevent a smile from creeping across her face. Finally, she raised her eyebrows. That broke the spell. He moved to the chair she'd indicated. Lulu turned back to face the pool.
Out of the corner of her eye, she continued to watch him. He stretched his body out along the lounge chair, crossing his long legs, one over the other, and resting his hands behind his head. There was no fluidity in his movements. His height must have been newly acquired. He wore a short-sleeved undershirt as a shirt. A patch of skin flashed for a moment above his jeans — soft and pale. A curious impulse flashed: to reach out and touch him there. Who knows what would happen if she did. Lulu rolled her hands under her. She could still hear Audrey's piercing shrill ringing through her head. No need for another lecture tonight.
"Good call." His deep, gravelly baritone had no slur whatsoever. "On the chair."
"Yes," Lulu deadpanned as she recovered her wits. The tone of his voice had hummed through her. Keep it together for five minutes, Saad. "They tell me that all the time. So many good calls."
"Full of wisdom?"
A low laugh built in Lulu's throat. "A font of it. They will remember me as Lulu the Wise."
"Lulu," he said. "That's got to be short for something."
Lulu sighed. "Leila. It's short for Leila."
And, right on cue, the boy began to wail, "Layyyylaaaaa," like he was Eric Fucking Clapton. He looked over, a grin spreading across his face until it crinkled into the corners of his eyes. He caught Lulu's eye. The singing immediately stopped. "Bad call?" "Absolutely horrendous."
"Horrendous? Why horrendous?" But there was no demand in his tone. "Please."
Lulu turned over onto her side to face him fully. He just looked at her, his face wide and open. Her pretty smile fell. Raw honesty wasn't something Lulu got much of in her neck of the woods. She stared, waiting for the sarcastic bite, the playful joke to his words. The light from the pool glimmered across his face. And his round, unflinching eyes just kept on staring. As if the rabbit could transfix the snake.
"I've never wanted any man on his knees, not really. Or worrying some kind of ease, or whatever the lyric is. I dunno. I don't wanna be Leila, or Carmen, or Belle de Jour. I just want to be me. Without some dude strumming a guitar or writing an opera or filming a movie trying to tell me how to do that. The singing reminds me that no matter what I go by somebody is gonna step in and remind me what some obsessed asshole thinks of my name. Reminds me that Clapton's Layla is cruel and Bizet's Carmen dies. So Lulu. That's me. It's mine. And it's just as real as any other fiction. No serenade required." Lulu took a deep breath. She'd managed to run out of air by the end of her confession. She didn't expect him to understand, because the only person who really got it was Lo.
"Okay, Lulu," he said. "I'm James."
Lulu held out her arm and gave a pretend handshake in the air. "Why don't I know you?"
"Just moved back from Florida."
"I'd never have pegged you for a Florida type."
His mouth twitched upward. "And I'd never have pegged you for a Buñuel type."
"What's a bunwell?"
"Luis Buñuel? You know, the director of Belle de Jour, the movie you were just complaining about?"
Recognition flitted through Lulu's mind. Damn. "Not a fan. Or a type. I've just been taking French forever. And you know how French teachers are: they don't want you only to speak French, they want you to know what it is to be French. Hence the French opera and the French cinema. And sometimes French rap." Lulu nodded seriously and furrowed her brow with exaggerated severity.
"Guess it worked, though. I mean, you made an artsy film reference at a house party."
"God, you're depressing," said Lulu, but without any real conviction. "I hated the movie, but sometimes things you hate stick with you, you know?"
Lulu waited for an answer. Frogs hidden in the grass around the pool croaked in a vibrating, syncopated rhythm. A slow, heavy breeze blew through humid air. Better than nothing, but still sticky and frizz-inducing. A whispering, slithering sensation crawled up Lulu's spine. She ought not to have confessed to him. She ought to have stayed hidden. She stared at the pool until her gaze went fuzzy and wide. Her vision transformed into a blur of blue and white light.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Not the Girls You're Looking For"
Copyright © 2018 Aminah Mae Safi.
Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
CHAPTER ONE: Rakish,
CHAPTER TWO: Sins of Omission,
CHAPTER THREE: Somebody's Yoda,
CHAPTER FOUR: Tolerable, We Suppose,
CHAPTER FIVE: Hunger Pangs,
CHAPTER SIX: You Can't Just Ask People Why They're White,
CHAPTER SEVEN: Costumed Drama,
CHAPTER EIGHT: Woke Up Like This,
CHAPTER NINE: Collateral Damage,
CHAPTER TEN: Love Notes from the Edge,
CHAPTER ELEVEN: Ben Saad's Little Sister,
CHAPTER TWELVE: Drop Trou,
CHAPTER THIRTEEN: The White Rabbit,
CHAPTER FOURTEEN: Queens of the Wild,
CHAPTER FIFTEEN: The Airspeed Velocity of an Unladen Swallow,
CHAPTER SIXTEEN: Eidia,
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: Spectacular, Spectacular,
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: And Hell Is Just a Sauna,
CHAPTER NINETEEN: Les Quatre Cents Coups,
CHAPTER TWENTY: Hard to Get,
CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE: The Price of Freedom,
CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO: The Legend of Billie Jean,
CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE: Midnight Madness,
CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR: Khalas,
CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE: Goddess of the Hunt,
CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX: The Tenth Day,
CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN: Mess with the Bull, You Get Bit by a Shark,
CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT: Tanya the Wife,
CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE: Seventeen Candles,
CHAPTER THIRTY: Bulletproof,
CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE: The Sisterhood of the Uniform Pants,
CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO: The Stars at Night Are Big and Bright,
Praise for Not the Girls You're Looking For,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I love Lulu and her messy, beautiful life. This book does not have a twisty plot or a grand reveal, but it's filled with real characters that will grab your heartstrings. I found Lulu so relatable, the way she carries her passion and rage right on the surface. Between her complicated friendships and a faux pas with her family that can never be fully forgiven, Lulu finds herself in deep trouble. Lulu and her friends all have big personalities. Her brothers are fantastic, her relationship with her parents is interesting and real. And I love the friendship Lulu has with Matt. It's really nice to see a guy and a girl in a book with a platonic friendship, just meeting for beignets after school. The details in this book really bring it to life. From Monty Python and the Holy Grail to a powerful scene where Lulu changes her mind and says "no" in an intimate encounter (LADIES. You CAN change your mind. No means no, no matter what point in the encounter you feel that way), I thought this book was really impressive and relatable and I just plain loved it. Aminah Mae Safi's writing style works perfectly for me. I like her snap and wit and the flow of her writing, and I'm really looking forward to her next book. Really, the only thing that bothered me personally was the format of the book? Which is actually fine, but the font was a little different than I'm used to? It took a few chapters for me to adjust. But that's how much I liked this - the only thing that I didn't love about it was the font? That's pretty good. :)
Not the Girls You're Looking For was a look at one girl's struggle with self identity and complex relationships, which was very thoughtful, witty, and honest. The Good •Lulu was a force to be reckoned with! She was interesting and complicated, and I never knew what to expect from her. To others, she seemed so tough, but that was only on the outside. Inside she was nursing wounds, grappling with personal demons, and slowly unraveling. •Safi's exploration of Lulu's inner struggle of not be white or arab enough was quite compelling, and made my heart ache a little for Lulu. It's hard enough trying to navigate one's teen years without gaining more scrutiny for being biracial. •I loved all the infusion of cultural and religious aspects Safi put into this story. Setting the book during Ramadan allowed the author to share so much about this important month on the Muslim calendar, and I really enjoyed visiting with all Lulu's "family". I especially adored the wedding, because I felt totally immersed in Lulu's joy during this event. •I am such a fan of female friendships, and this was quite a special one. Lulu's group was diverse and each young woman brought something to the group. When they were together, there was a synergy, and the group could take on any challenge. Safi explores the complex nature of this group, and she showed them at their best and their worst. •There are quite a few lackluster males in this story, but there were also some really wonderful ones. I was such a fan of Lulu's father and brothers, as well as James. •Lulu's mother was pretty incredible. She stood by her husband and supported his culture, despite the fact that she was not accepted into his world. She worked towards blending her culture with her husband's and passing this onto her children. She had her ups and downs with Lulu during this story, and there were a few mama bear moments, but not once did I question her love for Lulu. •A lot of ideas were touched upon with respect to relationships, consent, loyalty, family, culture, and personal responsibility, which I really enjoyed. The Not As Good •This story has very little plot. It's mostly about Lulu's personal journey, and sometimes seemed to wander, but it really did not detract from my enjoyment. Overall A wonderful story of self discovery, friendship, and family, which was filled with astute observations and warmed my heart.
The best part of this novel is Safi's writing. Lulu is biracial and I loved how much that plays a role in the story. The friend group was diverse and I enjoyed their dynamics and seeing their bond. I wasn't the biggest fan of the overall plot, there were some really cute scenes and some that dragged on too long. Overall, the writing and the characters kept me engaged.