REVIEW||Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed // A mesmerising book that weaves art, love and literary mystery

Synopsis: Told in alternating narratives that bridge centuries, the latest novel from New York Times bestselling author Samira Ahmed traces the lives of two young women fighting to write their own stories and escape the pressure of familial burdens and cultural expectations in worlds too long defined by men.

Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know
It’s August in Paris and 17-year-old Khayyam Maquet—American, French, Indian, Muslim—is at a crossroads. This holiday with her professor parents should be a dream trip for the budding art historian. But her maybe-ex-boyfriend is probably ghosting her, she might have just blown her chance at getting into her dream college, and now all she really wants is to be back home in Chicago figuring out her messy life instead of brooding in the City of Light.

Two hundred years before Khayyam’s summer of discontent, Leila is struggling to survive and keep her true love hidden from the Pasha who has “gifted” her with favored status in his harem. In the present day—and with the company of a descendant of Alexandre Dumas—Khayyam begins to connect allusions to an enigmatic 19th-century Muslim woman whose path may have intersected with Alexandre Dumas, Eugène Delacroix, and Lord Byron.

Echoing across centuries, Leila and Khayyam’s lives intertwine, and as one woman’s long-forgotten life is uncovered, another’s is transformed. (Goodreads) 

Publication Date: April 7th, 2020 (Soho Teen) 

Genres: YA, Contemporary 

Trigger Warnings: scenes of violence

Ratings: 4.5/5

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Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know was one of my anticipated releases so I was very excited to get the ARC. This book surprised me in the best ways. It was fierce, beautiful and so well-written that I knew from the first few pages that I would love this book.

A Story for and about Literary lovers

This story is a mix of art and history and is set in Paris and all this makes a truly interesting storyline. The Story follows a budding art historian Khayyam who has come to Paris for the summer and has a fate encounter with a guy through whom she falls into a literary mystery. This literary mystery which seems improbable at first becomes a series of revelations and surprises with discovery of Leila, a 19th century Muslim woman whose paths and life may have crossed with Alexandre Dumas, Eugène Delacroix, and Lord Byron. The story takes you through Paris and its history and museums while alternating between the POVs of the two women. It takes you on a journey with them and it leaves you happy at the end.

The literary mystery which unfurls in the story is super interesting and it makes you want to be there with Khayyam and Alexandre exploring and sleuthing in Paris and finding out centuries old literary clues. Honestly, I absolutely adored the whole literary vibe of the book and the mentions of Byron, Dumas and all while also learning about Leila and her life. 

Fierce Women Protagonists

The one thing I really loved about this book were the fierce women protagonists. Khayyam is an American Indian, American French, Muslim and from a family of immigrants. She is a budding art historian and has recently suffered a setback in one of her college essays. The one thing I really liked about Khayyam is her passion for the subject. You could feel her passion for art and history. Her talks about feminism, colonialism and racism were well written and realistic and you could feel that it’s not just written for the sake of it. Her actions sometimes were annoying but then when you realise the why and how, it’s better to understand her.

Leila was the 19th century Muslim woman who was in the harem under the care of Pasha and wanted to escape with her true lover. Leila’s story was beautiful and heartbreaking. Her life journey was filled with lots of difficulties and downs and her story was hidden from all. As the story moves forward and her life is uncovered, it is really awesome to read it. The way Leila and Khayyam’s stories are intertwined was amazing and I loved reading about them.

There were other characters like Alexandre, Zaid and Khayyam’s parents and they all had a good part to play and were well fleshed out and interesting. But this was at the core Leila and Khayyam’s story till the end.

Narrative about Women and their stories getting erased 

The one main narrative of this book was how the history and stories of women, especially women of color, are erased and it’s always the men who come forward and are shown as the real heroes. There are so many such women and in various fields who are either killed, suppressed, oppressed or their stories never make the frontline and this is only because they’re women. The deep seated patriarchy which has existed since long is explored and it is mentioned at various parts in the book. I really liked reading about it and it was explored in a very unique way in this book!

Romance and Love Triangle

The story had a romance in Paris and it did get really swoony at times. There was a love triangle too which wasn’t my favourite because this is generally not a trope I enjoy but it didn’t affect my reading much. Some of the dialogues were really cute and fun and mixed with the whole literary vibe and Paris setting, it definitely sets the whole vibe well. 

Overall, Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know is a truly amazing book about two women telling and discovering their stories and themselves. This book has romance, friendship, literary vibes and a literary mystery in Paris. It is really well-written and I would definitely recommend this book for all especially to all the literary and contemporary lovers. 

Thank you to the publisher from sending me an eARC through Netgalley. All opinions about the book are my own. 

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