Dahling, If You Luv Me, Would You Please, Please Smile


206 pages
ISBN 0-7737-6016-4
DDC jC813'.54




Reviewed by Dave Jenkinson

Dave Jenkinson is a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba and the author of the “Portraits” section of Emergency Librarian.


Although the catchy title suggests an adolescent romance, the line
actually comes from a drama exercise. In this novel about “fitting
in,” a play competition becomes first a problem and then the solution
for outsider Zainab Chaudry, 13. While some teachers assume that Zainab,
a Muslim, and Premini Gupta, a Hindu (the two “brown” girls) would
naturally become friends, their faiths separate them. Additionally,
“loser” Zainab is the lone eighth grader not wearing this year’s
in-brand of jeans. Zainab’s teacher, Mr. Weiss, attempts to improve
her social standing by putting her in charge of their house’s school
play, thereby placing her in contact with the “popular” students.
Unfortunately, Kevin, the school’s hunk and in-crowd leader, refuses
to cooperate.

Interestingly, Khan adds other forms of school alienation, including
that of Jenny Roberts, another outcast and one of Zainab’s few
friends. Zit-faced Jenny comes from a poor, single-parent home. She also
has “huge breasts” and is looking for love. Attracted by Jenny’s
bosom, Kevin agrees to star in the play if Jenny will show her
“appreciation.” Later, Jenny attempts suicide after Kevin mockingly
shows topless photos of her around school. Finally, Zainab dumps Kevin
and his gang from the play and writes another based on her culture and
performed by other “losers.” An engaging subplot is Zainab’s
Muslim home life; each night, Zainab’s older sister, Layla, somewhat
overzealously carries out her duty to “tell you all your faults. That
way you can improve upon them.”

Khan is the author of two picture books. Her first novel shows her
dealing successfully with a longer format while adding the East-Asian
voice that has been largely absent from Canadian young-adult literature
since Nazneen Sadiq’s Heartbreak High. Highly recommended.


Khan, Rukhsana., “Dahling, If You Luv Me, Would You Please, Please Smile,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 25, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/21189.