Thank you to Simon & Schuster for a copy of Unbecoming in exchange for an honest review. 

Summary of Seema Yasmin’s Unbecoming 

In a not-too-distant America, abortions are prosecuted, and the right to choose is no longer an option. But best friends Laylah and Noor want to change the world. After graduating high school, they’ll become an OBGYN and a journalist, but in the meantime, they’re working on an illegal guide to abortion in Texas.

In response to the unfair laws, underground networks of clinics have sprung up, but the good fight has gotten even more precarious as it becomes harder to secure safe medication and supplies. Both Laylah and Noor are passionate about getting their guide completed so it can help those in need, but Laylah treats their project with an urgency Noor doesn’t understand — that may have something to do with the strange goings-on between their mosque and a local politician.

Fighting for what they believe in may involve even more obstacles than they bargained for, but the two best friends will continue as they always have: together.

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American Horror Story

I had to take a lot of breaks while reading Seema Yasmin’s Unbecoming; it is a terrifying book that physically hurts to read. I’m sure people will compare it to The Handmaid’s Tale, but Unbecoming is more imminent and realistic.

In some ways, it’s already happening. Restrictions against birth control are also increasing, and the lower your socio-economic status, the more you’ll feel this impact. These laws sometimes penalize miscarriage as well. I tell you all this to contextualize this story: Unbecoming is not dystopic. At best, it is a cautionary tale; at worst, it is prophetic. I hope the resources it provides help readers. 

A very smart nuance in Yasmin’s story is that Noor faces less backlash for being queer than people do for preventing or terminating pregnancies. While there are currently many laws rolling back rights in this country, a large portion of anti-LGBT laws seem specifically focused on trans people. And, of course, anti-abortion laws are rampant.

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These points would be irrelevant if this book were not written well. Unbecoming is engrossing from the first page to the last, and the two POV characters read like the stubborn teenagers they are. They both have very strong — yet different — relationships to their Islam, another great choice Yasmin makes. I also particularly loved Laylah’s bond with her grandmother (to whom Noor is also particularly close).

Should You Read It?

I know that all of the above could make it sound like Unbecoming is an “issues” book, and I suppose that, in a way, it is, but the interpersonal relationships and the surprising twists and turns make the novel so much more. You’ll find yourself rooting so hard for the characters. My heart ached and pounded throughout their journeys. Yasmin’s Unbecoming is one of the best books I’ve read in a long while, if not ever. 

Unbecoming comes out on July 09, 2024. Pick up a copy at your local indie bookstore or library. 📚⛔

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