Daria and her friend group, the Authentics, pride themselves on authenticity; maybe it’s because they all have a distinct style, and a seemingly have a close bond with each other, or perhaps it’s simply because they like to keep it real. When Daria finds out that her family has been hiding her adoption from her, she goes ballistic: why would her parents hide such a secret? Who were her real parents? Why is she so determined to find out?
When I first read the synopsis for Nazemian’s THE AUTHENTICS, I was drawn to the “Nose Jobs,” a group of Persian girls who essentially succumbed to popular culture in making the decision to alter their faces. Their ringleader, Heidi, just so happens to also be Daria’s not-so-nice ex-BFF. My family is North African, so I immediately put myself in Heidi’s shoes; I’ve always been a bit uncomfortable with my nose myself, but looked to my mom, whose nose was identical to mine. These girls, however, didn’t have that same luxury as I do, so I think I can understand why they would go under the knife. Especially for body-conscious teens, plastic surgery is something some teens think about, and, in some cities, it may even common.
I loved the Authentics; they weren’t without faults, but they seemed like a group of people I’d genuinely like to hang out with. I’m not sure I can pick a definite favorite out of the bunch, but Kurt’s obsession with astrology undeniably puts him at the top of my list. Daria, our protagonist and heroine, was likable, yet I felt a little bit detached from her. Some of her interactions were too overdone, but it fit Daria’s personality in a way.
A moment that stood out to me, for example was when Daria distanced herself from her own mother for Encarnacion — although she is her biological mother — in a grossly immature move that felt so fitting for a 15-year-old to do. Or when she caught Heidi and her mother shopping for knock-off designer goods and proceeded to feel like a saint for not telling the whole school about it. Honestly though, I don’t think I ever got over the fact that Daria was technically going out with her brother (even though they aren’t blood related, it’s just strange). All of the issues I had were nitpicks, though; I really do love this book.
Nazemian managed to get everything right: a gripping story, lovable characters and a greater purpose. In writing a character like Lida, he acknowledged the separation of Persians versus Iranians, agnostic Muslims versus more practicing Muslims. In Amir and Andrew’s story, he not only broadcasted that gay couples have no reason to be denied a family life like the norm.
As the story progressed, however, I realized that the same elements that made them “authentic” were perhaps too overdone, to the point that fakeness pervaded in them. About three quarters into the book, Daria realizes that in addition to her family hiding a giant secret, her best friends were too. The resolution was so heartwarming that I cried (seriously!). Daria’s friend group epitomized the squad goals I always wished I had, but never did.
The story was so wonderful, so poignant in a way I could never expect. Nazemian brought up real issues — agnosticism in Islam, gay marriage, family and personal identity — while still keeping it real. It’s a celebration of culture, acceptance and family, and I thought it was beautifully written. I read it in a single sitting, wholly engrossed in the story without end; I recommend this to teens looking for a fun read.