Book Review: Fatima Tate Takes the Cake by Khadijah VanBrakle
Fatima Tate wants to be a baker AND enjoy some innocent flirting with her hot friend Raheem—but her strict Muslim parents would never approve of either…
Seventeen-year-old Fatima Tate, aspiring baker (100% against her conservative parents’ wishes), leads a pretty normal life in Albuquerque: long drives with BFF Zaynab, weekly services at the mosque, big family parties, soup kitchen volunteering (the best way to perfect her flaky dough recipe!), stressing about college.
But everything changes when she meets a charming university student named Raheem. Knowing the ‘rents would FREAK, Fatima keeps their burgeoning relationship a secret… and then, one day, her parents and his parents decide to arrange their marriage. Amazing! True serendipity!
Except it’s not amazing. As soon as the ring is on Fatima’s finger, Raheem’s charm transforms into control and manipulation. Fatima knows she has to call the whole thing off, but Raheem doesn’t like to lose. He threatens to reveal their premarital sexual history and destroy her and her family’s reputation in their tight-knit Muslim community.
Fatima must find the inner strength to blaze her own trail by owning her body, her choices, and her future. Combining the frank authenticity of Elizabeth Acevedo and the complex social dynamics of Ibi Zoboi, FATIMA TATE TAKES THE CAKE is a powerful coming-of-age story that gives a much-needed voice to young Black Muslim women.
I look at reviews for books and at physical books themselves essentially all day long, especially during the school year. I get so much book mail that it’s often months before I actually get around to reading a book. My point is that I see a lot of books and a lot of time passes, so when I add something to my TBR or set aside a book to read, by the time I actually get around to it I’ve mostly forgotten whatever I read (the summary/blurb) and just know it’s a book I wanted to check out. So in my head, this was a light, cute book about a Muslim girl entering a baking contest. And she does—she enters a baking contest and much of the story revolves around her desire to win the competition and also to be allowed to pursue the career path she wants, not the one her parents want for her. But it’s also about so much more. Fatima’s mother would like to see her focusing on getting married, so when her family is approached by Raheem’s family (Raheem being the boy she has a crush on anyway), things move quickly ahead and before Fatima can ever really process what is happening, she’s engaged. Here’s why that should maybe be awesome: she actually likes Raheem! Here’s why it’s maybe not so awesome: Fatima just graduated from high school. She’s not at all looking to be married at 18. But it seems like her wishes are irrelevant.
And here’s why it’s really not awesome: Raheem is not who he seems. AT ALL. He is not some Disney prince. He is not supportive and kind. He is not open-minded (acting like he’s cool with Fatima’s best friend being a queer Muslim girl but then trash talking her and encouraging Fatima to drop her). And, most importantly, he’s not honest. Oh, and he’s also controlling and manipulative. And he blackmails her. He’s awful. But he keeps all of that awfulness hidden for a while, until he’s secured an engagement with Fatima.
You know who’s not awful? All the awesome people surrounding Fatima. Her mother pushes her toward many things Fatima does not want to do (her choice of schooling and career, her rushed engagement to Rasheem), but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want the best for her kid. She wants Fatima to have a better, more secure life than she has led. Her father is overpowered by her mother, parenting-wise, but steps up to be heard when it’s most important that Fatima have someone in her corner. Fatima has Zaynab, the previously mentioned queer best friend, and her new baking friend, Brian, and a great new baking mentor looking out for her. She is just a teenager, wanting to pursue her passion, excited to be doing well in this competition, while also dealing with BIG things, things bigger than many teenagers will go through (but, it’s important to remember, things that plenty of teenagers DO go through).
I like books that show me something new, and this book presents an underrepresented storyline (young marriage/engagements) and gives the reader a lot to think about. A really good, interesting read.
Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher
Publisher: Holiday House
Publication date: 06/13/2023
Age Range: 14 – 17 Years
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
SLJ Blog Network