Monday, February 10, 2020

Review: No True Believers by Rabiah York Lumbard


No True Believers by Rabiah York Lumbard


Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Pages: 304
Publication date: February 2020
Content warning: Islamaphobia, bullying, terrorist bombings, arrest, assault, marijuana use, illness, various non-lethal crimes
Available at: Amazon | Book Depository

Salma Bakkioui has always loved living in her suburban cul-de-sac, with her best friend Mariam next door, and her boyfriend Amir nearby. Then things start to change. Friends start to distance themselves. Mariam's family moves when her father's patients no longer want a Muslim chiropractor. Even trusted teachers look the other way when hostile students threaten Salma at school.

After a terrorist bombing nearby, Islamaphobia tightens its grip around Salma and her family. Shockingly, she and Amir find themselves with few allies as they come under suspicion for the bombing. As Salma starts to investigate who is framing them, she uncovers a deadly secret conspiracy with suspicious ties to her new neighbors--but no one believes her. Salma must use her coding talent, wits, and faith to expose the truth and protect the only home she's ever known--before it's too late.
Salma Bakkioui has always loved living in her suburban cul-de-sac, with her best friend Mariam next door, and her boyfriend Amir nearby. Then things start to change. Friends start to distance themselves. Mariam's family moves when her father's patients no longer want a Muslim chiropractor. Even trusted teachers look the other way when hostile students threaten Salma at school.

After a terrorist bombing nearby, Islamaphobia tightens its grip around Salma and her family. Shockingly, she and Amir find themselves with few allies as they come under suspicion for the bombing. As Salma starts to investigate who is framing them, she uncovers a deadly secret conspiracy with suspicious ties to her new neighbors—but no one believes her. Salma must use her coding talent, wits, and faith to expose the truth and protect the only home she's ever known—before it's too late.
*This post contains affiliate links. I earn a commission from qualifying purchases. A copy of No True Believers was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


I inhaled this book. It’s a “one more chapter” novel. I told myself I’d read one more chapter before bed, and then it was suddenly midnight, and I had no intention of putting the book down. Once the plot gets moving, it really takes off. You’re in for a wild ride.

The main character, Salma Bakkioui, is a fairly typical suburban teenager. She has a loving Muslim family; a shy, nerdy boyfriend; and a group of girlfriends who are always ready to party. Her life becomes more complicated when a new family moves in next door. The new neighbors are . . . creepy. The wife seems terrified of her husband, and the son brings Salma’s younger sisters lavish gifts. As the neighbors’ behavior gets weirder, Salma uses her (not completely legal) computer hacking skills to dig into their digital life. What she uncovers leads to difficult choices. Should she run before her neighbors can frame her for a terrorist attack, or should she risk her life to stop the bombing?

Salma is an easy character to love because she’s self-aware. She knows how to play to her strengths, and she understands her weaknesses. She’s always tempted to use her hacking skills for cruel purposes, but she’s aware of her mean streak and keeps it under control. It’s refreshing to see a teenage character who pauses to consider the consequences of her actions. Salma would be an excellent role model for real teenagers.

Salma has a strong relationship with her family. They’re a tight-knit group. They aren’t perfect, though. This isn’t a major plotline, but Salma lives with a chronic illness, and there are hints that her mother doesn’t understand what that’s like. Salma knows her mother is trying to help, but sometimes her help isn’t exactly helpful. I think that’s realistic. Her mother doesn’t have an illness, so she struggles to relate.

Speaking of important relationships, Salma has a sweet romance with Amir, her boyfriend. It’s uncomplicated and teen-angst-free. When Salma is upset, Amir shows up with coffee or takes her to the butterfly garden. They just love each other. All the drama happens when Salma and Amir are roped into the neighbors’ terrorist plot. Then they have to figure out how to save their own lives.

A teenager uncovering a terrorist scheme is probably far-fetched, but parts of this book are depressingly real. I’m not Muslim, but I have witnessed Islamaphobia. I was a teenager when 9/11 happened. A group of boys at my school suddenly became very loud about their desire to join the military so they could “murder all the Muslims.” One boy even talked openly about his murder plans during one of those stupid “introduce yourself” games. The teacher did nothing to stop the murder talk (or give the boy realistic ideas about military service). Similar events happen in No True Believers. The principal knows that Salma is being bullied, but he ignores it.

Luckily, Salma has a support system. She has parents and friends who will stand up for her. That’s one of my favorite aspects of the book. Even when she’s keeping secrets, Salma is never truly alone. There’s always somebody looking out for her.

I found this novel gripping, but I do have two complaints.

First, I think the secondary characters all need more development. Salma has a lot of friends, which makes sense because she’s likeable, but her friends are mostly just names to me. We don’t see much of their personalities. I feel the same about Salma’s sisters. I pretty much forgot they existed until they went missing. Salma barely interacts with them. I think more character development could have also answered some of my lingering “Why?” questions. Why did the weirdo neighbors choose Salma? They were acting creepy before they moved in, so did they buy the house to target her? Or was she just a convenient scapegoat? I don’t know. The reader doesn’t learn enough about the neighbors.  

Second, the book is being compared to Courtney Summers’s Sadie. I think that could give readers the wrong impression. I wouldn’t call No True Believers a thriller because it’s paced like a contemporary until the last fourth of the book. Most of the story is about Salma trying to live her life while Islamaphobia consumes her town. It’s slow-burn. The book doesn’t become thriller-like until the end. I love contemporaries, so the pace didn’t bother me, but I want readers to have realistic expectations.

Despite my complaints, I enjoyed this book. It’s an engaging story about choosing love over cruelty and finding ways to make the truth heard.


In the religion of love there are no true believers. Everyone is welcome. – Rumi quoted in No True Believers
















Have you read this book? What did you think?









22 comments:

  1. Great review, I’m tempted to add it to my TBR.

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  2. Great review (but I have to admit that when I saw the title, I immediately thought of Eric Hoffer's "The True Believer"

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    1. I just Googled The True Believer and added it to my TBR list, so now I have another book to read . . . . :)

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  3. The combo of contemporary/thriller is intriguing! I like that you get to know the characters before all the action starts.

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    1. I liked that too. It makes the main character feel like a real person instead of an action movie hero.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  4. Definitely sounds captivating in its own right! Great review!

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  5. Great review, AJ! I added this to my TBR when I saw you mention it on The Sunday Post but this makes me want to read it asap!

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  6. Okay first of all that cover is stunning. Second this book looks AMAZING. There's few books that the review draws me in and makes me feel like I absolutely HAVE to read the book. But this one did just that. I haven't had any good "Just one more chapter" books in a long while.

    Ash @ JennReneeRead

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  7. I love the cover to this book, and I love that we are getting some chronic illness representation. I have a strong bond with my family, so it makes me very happy to see a tight knit family at the core of things, and we love a self-aware character. It sounds like this one was perfectly addictive if it kept you up at night!

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    1. The cover is brilliant. That’s what drew me to it in the first place. I saw it on Goodreads and clicked immediately.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  8. I like the sound of this. The way the author blended relevant topics with thriller elements. Oh, and Amir sounds like someone I would want to get to know better too. I always love when characters have a good book boyfriend.

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    1. Amir is very sweet. I like the lack of drama in the characters’ relationship.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  9. Oooh, this sound so good. I definitely need to read this one!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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  10. wow the title is eye catching & convincing that I never stop myself to read it...! thanks for sharing this is awesome share.. :) Corona Virus

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  11. Wow this sounds quite good! It hadn't been on my radar, but it definitely is now. It definitely sounds very different than Sadie, so that does seem an odd comp (this is why I hate comps tbh) but I LIKE that it is different so that's actually a win for me. So glad you enjoyed this one, and thanks for the great review!

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