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Pakistani 11-year-old Mona Hasan has big plans for the new year. It’s January 1991, and among her resolutions are no longer rolling her eyes behind her parents’ backs and being nicer to her little sister. She is also super curious about boys, her changing body, and the popular new girl at school. Mona pours her feelings about all these things into her diary, often writing poems about the events of the day. When Iraq invades Kuwait, her parents begin whispering about immigration, a new word she looks up—and is not pleased to learn about. The text takes readers from Dubai, on a visit to Pakistan, and then eventually to Canada, where the family settles in a small Nova Scotia town. Mona is reading Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4, which this work is clearly a tribute to. Hussain effectively captures the tone and format of the original classic: Mona’s diary entries and poems are often quite moving and unintentionally hilarious. However, the book’s many topics, including a creepy family friend and the boy who is Mona’s first crush, at times feel underdeveloped. Mona’s story is at its strongest when she’s describing the intricacies of life in Dubai and the cultures and religions of its diverse populations.

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