Anything But Okay is a book about how the truth is not always what it seems and how there is still so much work to be done when it comes to racism.
This book is about a girl named Stella Walker, who comes from a family of veterans. Her parents met while serving in a war, and her brother Rob just got back from the Afghanistan War. But, he came back traumatized and different. Now he is constantly angry and shutting everyone out.
One day, Stella’s brother overhears two boys from her school taunting a boy with a patka because they thought he was Muslim. (Patka’s are actually something that males in the Sikh faith wear to cover their hair as a religious tradition.) Rob ends up punching one of the cruel boys and breaking his nose. The boy happened to be the son of the mayor, so the fight becomes news and Rob gets labed a “violent vet” and a “radicalized terrorist sympathizer.” Stella’s best friend Farida, who is Muslim, is dragged into the mess as proof that they are friends with Muslims and are “terrorist lovers”.
I liked how this book adressed racism from the eyes of a white person trying to understand what it was like to be treated differently when you are not white. And how it encouraged people to take a stand. But I just found the book to be just OK. I hate giving up on books, so that’s why I finished this one. I was disappointed in the character development. None of them really stuck out to me or had a strong personality.
I also felt like one of the few diverse characters in the story, Farida, was basically only there to educate Stella every time she didn’t see that something was racist. I understand that it is good to have a friend who tries to make their friends understand what their lives are like being a person of color, but it was constant and as a reader, it became annoying to me. It was like Farida was only there to be a diverse character in the book. Every conversation between the friends was Farida getting mad at Stella for her white privilege. Even when Stella was going through a lot of tough times, Farida kept pointing out how Farida’s situation was worse because she is Muslim and often faces racism. It would have been cool to read this book from Farida’s point of view, it would have made her more likeable and she would have had a deeper personality.
Sarah Darer Littman is a very popular and praised teen author, but this book fell flat for me. Still, I recommend this book to readers who enjoy her books.
Two out of four roses!