Book Review: I Am Malala

Malala needs no introduction. For the rest of her days, no matter what she does, she will be known as the girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban. Of course everyone was curious about this indomitable girl, who took on the worst kind of people in the world. So was I.

This book has been on my to-read list for some time, although I was dying to read it. I figured it would be an interesting account of the events that led up to the shooting, and the consequences thereof. It is that to some extent, but it is also an autobiography. That, I did not expect. [Stupid, considering the title.]

Author: Malala Yousafzai

Premise: Malala Yousafzai is an education advocate, from the Swat valley of Pakistan. She was shot in the head, on afternoon, when returning from her father’s school. Thankfully she lived to tell the tale, and the incident has catapulted her (and her cause) to international attention. The book tells the story of her young life, and the building tensions that led to the fateful shooting.

What surprised me is the volume of the minutiae of Malala’s quotidian life. There are sections of the prose that talk about her thoughts and behaviour, and how these affect her. We get to see the nice and the not-so-nice parts of Malala’s mental makeup.

Another facet of the prose is the history of Swat valley, and the cultural norms that prevail there. It is a slice of life for a region that no one I know has encountered, and a way of life that was hitherto unknown to me. It was an interesting capsule of anthropology, albeit somewhat narrow, as it is told from the perspective of a young girl who lived and breathed there for almost her whole life.

Granted, there is a sense of egotism about Malala, and perhaps there is a soupçon of arrogance because she is, at the time of writing, a celebrity of sorts. Some of the reviews on Goodreads (from other Pakistanis) reflect their disgruntled view of her take on things in Pakistan. I think that she is entitled to her opinion, and finally it is one person’s personal perspective.

Writing: The writing is average. It is somewhat young and immature, which is to be expected, and lacks finesse. There are times she jumps from point to point and then back again without clear thought. But the narrative is organised reasonably well.

Pace: Again, the pace is average. If one picks up this book for sensationalism, they will be disappointed. It is a peek into the rural life of Pashtuns in the Swat valley of Pakistan, and one girl’s perspective. The histrionics are only at the very end, and just do not really make for a gripping read overall.

Conclusion: I am glad I read this book, and it did stay will me on different levels for a considerable amount of time. However, having said that, I wouldn’t read it again. I also wouldn’t recommend it readily to anyone, and thus it was purely a human interest read.

I do think that reviewers are being unfair to someone who is essentially a young teenager, who has gone through a uniquely life-changing event.

Rating: ✩✩

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