“A timely and crucial novel”—Riley Earle on The New Girl, by Sinéad Moriarty
by Riley Earle
Sinéad Moriarty’s The New Girl brilliantly explores the convergence of cultures, the struggles of being somewhere new and entirely different, and the beautiful lessons that listening, understanding, and compassion can teach us.
The winner of the 2021 Irish Book Award for Teen and Young Adult Book of the Year, this novel aimed at children ages 9 to 13 is a heartwarming page-turner.
Moriarty has succeeded in creating an empathetic guide for a wide audience on acceptance and celebration of cultural differences and how we can support and learn from one another.
Although young Ruby and Safa at first think they have nothing in common, they soon realise that even if their problems aren’t the same, their feelings aren’t as different as they seem.
Ruby, jealous of Safa’s shiny, gorgeous hair, can’t understand why she prefers to wear a hijab. Safa, grateful to have a safe space in which to learn, is appalled at Ruby’s negative and dismissive attitude toward school.
Differences such as these make a friendship between the two girls seem unlikely, but the more they communicate and live in each other’s worlds, the more they realise that learning from each other is the best way for a friendship to grow. Ruby and Safa find common ground in their shared value of family, and soon come to see that they can help each other in extraordinary ways.
Timely and crucial
Safa’s character shines at the heart of the story, winning over the reader’s adoration from the start. All we want is to see Safa, haunted by nightmares of her past, patiently navigating the ignorance of her peers, reunited with her father, or Baba.
As Safa calmly corrects the cruel assumptions pressed upon her for her refugee status, it’s impossible not to admire her courage and wisdom. She rubs off on Ruby, too, who learns not only about Safa’s culture but also what refugees are forced to tolerate, and about selflessness, gratitude, and perspective.
The New Girl is a timely and crucial novel, cultivating healthy curiosity and understanding of those different from ourselves. It’s a beautiful, truthful, and emotional story that encourages acceptance and inclusivity, challenging readers to look outside of the known, bypass the stereotypes, and reach out for the sake of others.
Riley Earle is a third year Professional Writing student with a specialisation in Editing and Publishing at Champlain College, Vermont, U.S.A. She was a welcome addition to the team during her internship with Books Ireland.