Rebels by Accident by Patricia Dunn

Book Review:

I adore books that open a door into the ‘similarities’ that we all have, despite our differences, and Patricia Dunn does this with her uniquely voiced character Mariam.  Born in the US to Egyptian parents, she is railing against her parents’ rules, their ‘not-American’ traditions, and the way she feels ‘constrained’ and can’t wait to be old enough to live on her own and make her own rules.

But, being a teenager and wanting to fit in often means that you make some bad choices, and she snuck out to attend a party that got out of hand, and she got caught.  Her father, really at the end of his rope and thinking that she needs to discover her roots and arranges for she and her best friend to travel to Egypt to stay with her Grandmother. 

A complete change for a girl used to the western life and freedoms, the hustle and bustle of Egypt, the chaos, scenes, sounds and customs are not wholly unfamiliar, but are wholly shocking. A bit of the “I can’t BELIEVE” moments, feeling very much the outsider in a time when the country is on the brink of the Arab Spring , her unfamiliarity with the country and her anger at her parents for ‘banishing’ her to such an experience are clearly detailed, and feel very appropriate.

Characterizations in this story are beautifully crafted with depth and nuance, Mariam and Deanna are complete people who function (and feel) just like friends should. When one is leading, the other follows and compliments beautifully, without becoming a shadow.  The undoubted third character of great importance in this story is Egypt itself: Dunn adds imagery, explains tradition and paints a picture that gives a feel and perspective of the people and the country that is far more complete than a travelogue without becoming a tourist guide. Of course, nothing beats experience firsthand, but Dunn adds in interactions, tension and the overwhelming chaos of the time that keeps you on the edge of your seat.  The dangers inherent in a time of turmoil, keeps readers tense and brings memories of news reports of those days: the deaths, damage and chaos.

There are several different elements that converge in this story, and we see Mariam learn and grow significantly: gaining more confidence, connecting with the long history that is her heritage and even connecting with her grandmother.  We won’t ignore her first romance and kiss, or the moments where her own insecurities had her feeling jealous twinges about her best friend: all of these elements added to the layers of the friendship making it even more solid.

I was intrigued and engaged throughout the entire book: whipping through the pages and sad to see it end.  Patricia Dunn has created a story that is perfect for the tween through teen readers: the characters will feel familiar and real as they work their way through a very unfamiliar set of circumstances.

Rebels by Accident by Patricia Dunn

Title: Rebels by Accident
Author: Patricia Dunn
Genre: Teen Reads
Published by: Sourcebooks
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 290
Rated: five-stars
Heat: One Flame

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A Troubled Teen Sent to Cairo Finds Revolution is Everywhere, Including in Ourselves

When my first party ends in jail, I think things can’t possibly get worse. But then my parents send me to my grandmother in Cairo, and I’m sure my life is over. My sittu is Darth Vader’s evil sister, and I’m sure the only sites I’ll get to see in Egypt are the rooms in her apartment.

Turns out she’s not so bad. We ride camels by the pyramids and ice skate at a mall.

As Sittu says, “Sometimes a moment can change your life.” But it can change the life of a country too. When a girl named Asmaa calls the people of Egypt to protest, I find myself in the middle of a revolution, running from tear gas and guns.

Oh yeah, and I meet the cutest guy I’ve ever seen. Fall in love for the first time. And have my first kiss.

A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.


Sixteen (well, almost sixteen), and I’m behind bars. Okay, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic. It’s not as if I’m locked up with serial killers or slashers, but I’m in a cell. Deanna’s with me, along with about thirty other underage girls who were also at the party and didn’t run away in time or convince the police to let them go.

As we piled into squad cars, I watched these girls (and even a few guys) put on all the moves—-crying, flirting, screaming, fainting, even begging—-to get out of the arrest, but none of it worked.

I have to say Deanna gave it her best. Not being able to crack a smile really worked to her advantage when the officer in charge said to her that he was glad someone was taking the situation seriously. She wasn’t kidding when she said she was a great litigator like her mom. When the cop found me hiding in the bathtub with the shower curtain drawn (could I have picked a more obvious place?) and dragged me downstairs with the rest of the crowd, there was Deanna, telling the police we shouldn’t be responsible for the actions of some stupid guys who brought beer to the party. She almost had one cop convinced to let us go when Karen, the bane of my existence, stepped forward and threw up on his shoes.

All through elementary school and middle school, Karen and her drone Beth talked trash about me and my family. Their favorite insults were that my dad was in Al–Qaeda and my mom was only one of his many wives.

At least she’s not in our cell. They put her, and all the other vomiting kids, in a separate cell—-with buckets.

Still, it stinks in here. I stick my nose between the bars, trying to breathe air that doesn’t smell like puke, beer, or raw fish. Who has an open sushi bar at a high school party? Then again, what would I know about parties? This is the only party I’ve been to since first grade.

“Come on, Mar. It’s not that bad.” Deanna pushes against my shoulder. I don’t budge. I don’t say anything.

“Funny how we started the night trying to break into the party, and now we just want to get out.” Deanna stands closer to me, but I can’t even look at her. If I do, I’ll start to cry. And I’m already the biggest freak at school.

“Look, I know you’re flipping out here, but everything will be okay.”

“Are you kidding me?” I turn to her and lower my voice. “I’m in jail. Do you know how happy this is going to make my parents?”


“Now they can feel totally justified when they never let me leave our apartment again.”


Relax? We’ve just been arrested! We are in a holding cell with girls who have picked on me—-or, worse yet, ignored me—-since kindergarten. On top of that, my parents are going to kill me! Why did I let Deanna talk me into going to this party?

Okay, the truth: she didn’t have to talk me into anything. I wanted to go. I would’ve done anything, even lie to my parents, to crash a party. I knew I wasn’t invited and that I’d probably be kicked out as soon as someone saw me. But forcibly removed—-by the police? That I didn’t expect.

Still, I shouldn’t blame Deanna for helping me get what I wanted. But I do. It was an amazing night of music and dancing. Yes, I danced with three guys! And nobody made jokes about my dad being a towel–head or my uncle being Bin Laden…Tonight I was dancing and laughing. I wasn’t a freak or a weirdo; I was just another girl having fun.

“Actually,” I say, turning to Deanna, “thanks.”

“You’re thanking me?” she asks.

“Hey, I know I’m in big trouble but tonight was an adventure—-probably the last one I’ll have until I’m thirty.”

“Don’t mention it,” she says. Most people would say she has no expression on her face, but I can tell she’s smiling



About Patricia Dunn

Patricia Dunn’s writing has appeared in, Christian Science Monitor, Village Voice, The Nation, LA Weekly, and others.

With an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College, where she also teaches, the Bronx- raised rebel and former resident of Cairo is now settled in Connecticut, with her husband, teenage son, and toddler dog.

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