They told her that her body belonged to men and her mind didn’t matter. They were wrong.
TRIGGER WARNINGS for this book: abuse, sexual assualt warning, non-consensual bodily mutilation.
I have been waiting for what feels like YEARS to write this review because I Am Change by Suzy Zail has quickly become one of my favourite novels of 2019. To give you some background, I read this book as part of the Reading Rush Readathon, and I believe it took my a day and a half to complete reading it. Looking back now, I should have probably not read this book as part of a readathon mostly because it was a story that was incredibly powerful, raw and confronting. A type of story that you should allow more time to digest between reading it!
Before I delve into the review of this book, let me just give you a synopsis of the book!
“What if I don’t want to marry?” Lillian held her breath. She had never said the words out loud. “Not want to marry?” Her aunt frowned. “What else would you do?”
Set in a Ugandan village, Lilian has learned to shrink herself to fit other people’s ideas of what a girl is. In her village a girl is not meant to be smarter than her brother. A girl is not meant to go to school or enjoy her body or decide who to marry. Especially if she is poor.
I Am Change is not a novel that I would categorise as a plot-heavy novel, I would think it would be more character-based and I think one of the main reasons why I adore this book is because of the main character, Lilian. The narrative is meant to immerse the reader in the everyday life of Lilian as she comes of age – her family, her culture, her traditions, her friends, her schooling. You are at her side when she realises the purpose of women in her culture, you are with her when her heartbreaks, when she fights for her education, fights for her suvivial; the story is there to make you angry, to make you cry, to confront your privilege or to see yourself and your story in the character of Lilian. The pacing of the narrative does get slow, but as a result of the nature of what this book talks about, I think a slow paced book is much more in line with the story. I say this because it is a book that you will find yourself having to put down, just for a moment, because of how emotionally intense it can become. For me, it was anger, frustration and resentment towards the very oppressive and suppressive patriarchal system that Lilian was subjected to. So much so, that I cried for and with Lilian and the girls of the story and the girls and women who live through this everyday. It also talks about the importance of representation in, not only fiction, but in reality. I won’t go into detail concerning what happens in the book, as I really want as many people to read this as possible, so I will not be spoiling it at all. However, I do want to talk about Lilian for a moment.
Lilian, for me, is what I consider to be the epitome of a strong female character. That phrase gets thrown around alot, espeically now, in terms of young adult literature. Which, IT’S ABOUT TIME, but I also think that as a result, a lot of the female protagonists that exist within young adult literature, are the same. Lilian breaks the mold and is one of the most powerful characters at the moment in YA. I say this because Lilian is human, in every sense of the word. Her strength is in her persistence, in her fear, in her doubts, in the way that she grows as a woman, how she loves her family but wants nothing more than to be be bigger than just her village. I just adored her so much and I found her voice to be incredibly profound and one that did not sugarcoat anything at all.
As a result of this, I will quickly list some trigger warnings even though I did put them in the beginning of this post, but I just want to emphasise it to you. This is an intense novel, tackling extremely important issues but it might be too much for some. There is abuse, both domestic and child as well as physical, psychological, emotional and financial abuse, there is sexual assualt warning, non-consensual bodily mutilation, sexism, misogyny, and relationships with extreme age gaps. They are the warnings I remember off the top of my head, but please if any of these are too confronting, please don’t read it, you’re mental health is much more important.
I found I am Change by Suzy Zail to be so amazing to read, I adored the way it was written because it was raw and engaged with so many real issues that women and girls face. It highlights the power of education and the power of women. I give it a glowing 5 out of 5 stars and I don’t think I will ever stop talking about this book.
I just want to thank Suzy Zail, AUSYABLOGGERS as well as Walker Books for enabling me to be on the blog tour for I Am Change.
Until next time, happy reading!
All the love,
About The Book
Inspired by the stories told to the author by young Ugandan women. Timely and salient – the rights of girls and women in African countries are only now being exercised. A moving story of one girls struggle.
200,000 million girls in developing countries don’t have the opportunity to go to school. Their education is disrupted by poverty, child marriage, gender based violence and cultures which favour boys’education. I Am Change highlights the issues that these young women face.
Through Lilian, Suzy Zail gives readers a connection and a meaning to the young women’s stories.
About The Author
Suzy Zail has worked as a litigation lawyer, specialising in Family Law, but now writes full time. Among other titles, she has written her father’s story, The Tattooed Flower, his life as a child survivor of the Holocaust. Her first novel for young adults, The Wrong Boy, was short listed for the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book of the Year Awards, the Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature, the WAYRBA, USBBY and YABBA awards. Her second novel with Black Dog Books, Alexander Altmann A10567, was a Notable Book at the CBCA Awards. She lives in Melbourne and has three children.
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/authorsuzyzail/
Website – https://www.suzyzail.com.au/
Walker Books Australia – https://www.walkerbooks.com.au/Books/I-Am-Change-9781925126839
Australian Bloggers – https://ausyabloggers.blogspot.com/2019/07/i-am-change-blog-tour.html