What is this about?: Michael and Mina who fall in love. However, Mina is a former refugee and Michael’s parents have started a political party called Australian Values. They meet on opposing sides of a rally, and then discover they go to the same school. As they get to know each other, they discover that not all the people on their sides of this particular political question are easily defined.
What else is this about?: This book is a celebration of the melting pot of Australian culture, the good and the bad. Refugees have been a hot-button topic here in Australia for far too long and the author has taken take and woven a lovely, compelling and human story of two people who fall in love. This book makes me want to believe that love can open someone’s eyes and make them question everything — and I wish desperately that life could be like this.
Should you read: Yes. Absolutely. Despite the political question at the core of this story, the writing is earnest and filled with love for all things Australian. I finished this on the way to work one morning and ugly cried all the way into my work station. This is what it means to write from the heart.
Blurb: Before Mina, my life was like a completed jigsaw puzzle but Mina has pushed the puzzle onto the floor. I have to start all over again, figuring out where the pieces go.
When Michael meets Mina, they are at a rally for refugees – standing on opposite sides.
Mina fled Afghanistan with her mother via a refugee camp, a leaky boat and a detention centre.
Michael’s parents have founded a new political party called Aussie Values.
They want to stop the boats.
Mina wants to stop the hate.
When Mina wins a scholarship to Michael’s private school, their lives crash together blindingly.
A novel for anyone who wants to fight for love, and against injustice.
Here’s the thing about When Michael Met Mina: it’s anyone’s story — whether you’re living in the UK or US or anywhere else. The question of refugees is one everyone is grappling with and this is a story that says there’s no difference between us and them.
Michael is your typical guy: hangs with his friends, teases girls, has a messy break-up and loves his little brother. Mina hangs out with her friends, worries about her parents and grades and is nervous about starting a new school. They’re us — they’re someone you’ll know, no matter where you live.
What makes them different, is that Michael’s parents have started an Australian Values political party, dedicated to keeping refugees out of Australia and Mina is a refugee, who has built a life with her parents in Australia. She is learning to navigate a world that will always see her as a refugee first no matter how much she calls Australia home. Michael is learning that his world, the one’s his parents created for him, is so much bigger than what he’s been told. He’s just never thought to ask if there was something more out there.
I don’t think I can accurately explain what it is like to see and read about things I’ve seen and thought about in the same was as described in the book. I’ve long accepted that my story isn’t one I’m going to see in a book any time soon, so I enjoy the similarities where I find them.
But on to the characters — Mina is any young girl, trying to get the right grades, deal with bullies and make friends in a new school. There is nothing to set her apart from the other characters, other than her faith and in this day and age, her status as a former refugee, which you can’t see unless you ask. She’s a loving, respectful daughter, and she’s fierce — she will stand up to her friends and for her friends, and she doesn’t take Michael’s BS.
Thing is, though, and this is why I love her, she is also slow to open her mind to who Michael is, to see him as more than his parents’ son and that makes her even more compelling — she isn’t perfect. Part of her won’t believe he can change until she can’t deny that he’s more than she first thought he was.
Michael is your typical guy — brash and focused on his friends and his life, until seeing Mina strikes like a thunderbolt. When he sees her at his school, there’s no avoiding her — her snark, her fierceness and her rage at who he is, and what his parents stand for. It’s worsened when he appears on TV talking about and supporting his parents’ views. Michael is scared of change, of disrupting his life that is a good life, but that change is one that has been brewing for a while — he doesn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps as an architect. He just hasn’t told his parents that.
Michael is afraid of change and I can understand that, but I admire too that he finally gathered his courage and stood up for himself, many times over. What the story does well is that it shows is that Mina wasn’t the catalyst for his change — that was already in him. It’s his decision to stand up to his parents and choose graphic design, and later on, make an even bigger stand.
The beauty of this book is that Michael’s and Mina’s parents are fully realised characters, who have an big influence on their kids’ lives. They’re important in this story, and in a genre that often doesn’t acknowledge or focus on parents — kid relationships, this was a breath of fresh air. It also makes Mina and Michael more — we see how these kids have been shaped, and again, I don’t always find this in YA, done as well as this.
When Michael met Mina is a celebration of multicultural Australia, the good and the bad. It recognises that not everyone’s views are black and white, and easily seen. Sometimes stories are much more complicated than we think they are. It also shows, more than anything, the question of refugees are not as simple as we may think it is.
When Michael met Mina is out now.
What do you think of When Michael met Mina?