Rebels by Accident

Rebels by Accident

by Patricia Dunn


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"The next best young adult novel."—Huffington Post

Mariam Just Wants to Fit In.

That's not easy when she's the only Egyptian at her high school and her parents are super traditional. So when she sneaks into a party that gets busted, Mariam knows she's in trouble...big trouble.

Convinced she needs more discipline and to reconnect with her roots, Mariam's parents send her to Cairo to stay with her grandmother, her sittu.

But Marian's strict sittu and the country of her heritage are nothing like she imagined, challenging everything Mariam once believed.

As Mariam searches for the courage to be true to herself, a teen named Asmaa calls on the people of Egypt to protest their president. The country is on the brink of revolution—and now, in her own way, so is Mariam.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781492601388
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 12/02/2014
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 1,014,049
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.70(d)
Lexile: HL610L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

PATRICIA DUNN'S writing has appeared in, CSM, The Village Voice, The Nation, L.A. Weekly, and others. With an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College, where she also works as the Director of the Writing Institute, this Bronx-raised rebel and former resident of Cairo settled in Connecticut, with her husband, teenage son, and toddler dog. Visit Patricia at

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

This isn't my first visit to the Mayflower Police Station. The last time I was here, Mom brought me with her to register a complaint about a pothole. It was the size of a quarter, but Mom insisted it was dangerous to drive over when she had a child in her car. I was thirteen.

This time, I'm at the Mayflower Police Station as a criminal. 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.

Ever since those people tried to build their mosque near Ground Zero and there was all that controversy, my life has been worse than ever. The kids at school treat me like I'm one of those people. But I'm not. My family may be Muslim, but I don't think they should put a mosque so close to Ground Zero either. I mean, I believe in freedom of religion and all, and I know Muslims died at Ground Zero too, but why would they want to be where they're not wanted? I don't get it. If it's causing so much trouble, why not just build their mosque somewhere else? It's selfish to cause so many problems.

But 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.

When I met Deanna last summer, she'd just moved to Mayflower from San Francisco with her mom. I was the first person she told about her face. I Googled it to try to better understand why her face doesn't make expressions like most people's, but after reading pages and pages of medical blah, blah, blah, it really just boils down to what Deanna told me about it: "The muscles in my face don't work."

"Does my hair look okay?" some voice behind me asks. "Do I have anything in my teeth?"

Another voice says, "No, but do I have anything in my teeth? Is my mascara smeared?"

"Are they kidding?" Deanna asks me. "We're in a jail cell, and they're worried about their makeup. It's like we go to Airhead High."

"Shush," I tell her.

"Mar, no one is listening to us. They're all too busy hearing themselves not think."

The only reason Deanna even wanted to crash the party was so she could show me what I wasn't missing. But look at these girls: not one seems the least bit freaked out. Are their parents that laid-back? Maybe that's the secret to their coolness-cool parents. If that's true, I don't stand a chance.

"Well, it could be worse," she says.


"Oh crap," she says. An officer unlocks the large cell door. There stand Beth and Karen-the Mayflower Mean Girls.

"In you go," the officer says.

Deanna looks at me. "We're going to be locked in here with them."

Karen stares at me. "Who're you supposed to be? Cleopatra?"

I rub my eyes. Black eyeliner wipes off on my fingers. I'd forgotten Deanna had done my makeup before we went to the party. "You look like an Egyptian queen," Deanna had said. But not just any Egyptian queen. She insisted I was Hatshepsut, the queen who ruled Egypt for more than twenty years. Deanna says Hatshepsut was the queen who was king. Deanna loves anything Egyptian, which is probably why she's friends with me. But I don't want to look like an Egyptian queen, even if she was incredibly powerful. I don't want to look like an Egyptian anything. I rub my eyes some more.

"Back off," Deanna says, moving between Karen and me. Karen is a half-foot taller than Deanna, but my bet is on Deanna.

Karen steps back, then smirks. "Hey, Beth. I just realized why these two are best friends."

"They come from the same place," Beth says, like the two of them had rehearsed this scene. Now everyone is listening. "Cleopatra and the Sphinx."

"You mean Sphinx Face." Karen laughs.

"She did not just say that," someone whispers loudly from the other side of our cell.

"Yes, she did," someone else says.

Beth lifts her hand to high-five Karen, but Deanna grabs both their wrists and, like a professional wrestler, pulls their arms behind their backs.

"Fight, fight!" people shout around us.

"Get off me," Beth shrieks, struggling. Karen winces.

"Apologize." Deanna pulls their arms harder.

"You're hurting me!" Beth stops struggling.

"Apologize," Deanna demands.

"Fine. Fine. I apologize."

Deanna lets them both go. "Get out of my face."

Beth scrambles to the other side of the cell. "You're crazy," she says, but it's obvious she's trying to save face with everyone watching. I know Deanna hears this, but she doesn't take her eyes off Karen. Karen opens her mouth, but before anything comes out, she closes it and walks over to Beth.

"You okay?" Deanna asks me.

I nod, but I have never felt lamer. She stood up to both of them, and I just stood there. They called her Sphinx Face, and I didn't do or say anything. And she wants to know if I'm okay?


"You'll get it next time," she says, like she's just treated me to a mocha cappuccino.

I force a smile. I can't imagine being as courageous as Deanna.

What People are Saying About This

Daisy Khan

Told through the eyes of sixteen-year-old Mariam, an Egyptian-American girl who travels to Egypt during the Arab Spring, Rebels by Accident captivates and engrosses the reader.  Illuminating for young readers the complex role of youth in the tumultuous Arab Spring, Mariam's story reflects upon important concerns that American Muslims face, providing a valuable perspective on the power young people can wield in truly affecting change in the world.
— Daisy Khan (Executive Director, American Society for Muslim Advancement)

Ayesha Mattu

Rebels By Accident captivates us from the very first page. Patricia Dunn draws us into the richly detailed and often humorous world of sixteen-year-old Arab-American Mariam's quest for love and adventure on the revolutionary streets of Cairo. Mariam's evolving thoughts about her multicultural identity; challenging relationship with her parents; and loving connection to Sittu, her sassy and wise grandmother, will deeply resonate with readers. As Sittu points out, sometimes a moment can change your life. Mariam shows us that sometimes a moment is all one needs to embrace the brave young woman waiting within all along.
— Ayesha Mattu (editor and author of the bestselling anthology?Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women)

Myra Goldberg

The book has, along with its wisdom, and its rich characters, wonderful pacing and dialogue, and a real feel for the reality of young people's prejudices and passions, as well as the way in which they can melt, in the face of reality. It seems to me to be as compelling for parents as for young adults, which is, after all, what really good books from Winnie the Pooh to The Hunger Games do, unite us, rather than divide us.
— Myra Goldberg (author of Rosalind, Whistling and the forthcoming As It Turned Out)

Carole Geithner

Mariam is desperate to see what it feels like to be a part of the inside crowd, if only for an evening. That fateful night lands her in the middle of a series of explosive events that change her life and those of millions worldwide. This is a story that will open hearts and minds."
— Carole Geithner (author of If Only)

Randa Abdel-Fattah

Patricia knows how to write teenagers. She doesn't fall into the trap of writing what they should say, or what we want them to say. She respects the space between writer and character and gives them a platform to be themselves. … I loved that Patricia respected Mariam's personal inner revolution, and allowed Mariam the space to indulge her initial shame at her heritage. … Patricia has written a special book and one I read compulsively, not content until I'd finished it in one sitting. … I laughed and I cried. The only thing left to say is, 'more please'!
— Randa Abdel-Fattah (Best Selling Author and Human Rights Activist. Author of Ten Things I hate About Me and six other novels)

Jaela Cheeks

Rebels By Accident is no accident but rather a work of pure genius! The story is infused with a rich culture that few know about. It's a story about finding oneself and appreciating that discovery. Patricia presents the reader with a character who is relatable, interesting and whose journey captures the imagination. A place on the shelves of bookstores worldwide is assured for this novel!"
— Jaela Cheeks (Lomax, Senior at Ursuline High School, New Rochelle NY)

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Rebels by Accident 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
WishEnd More than 1 year ago
3.5 Stars Rebels by Accident was a pleasant surprise. It wasn't what I was expecting, but I ended up being perfectly happy that it turned out to be something different. I loved that the main character, Mariam, was an Egyptian-American. I loved the pieces of culture throughout the book and the sweet endearments and sayings from Sittu (her grandmother). I also loved the friendship and camaraderie between Mariam, Deanna (her best friend who comes with her to Egypt) and the other characters they befriend. I do have to mention that there were parts where I was upset and frustrated with the characters, specifically Deanna and a few times Mariam. Of course they're teenagers and so some things they didn't think through or were naive about. Some of it was that they both grew up in the US and didn't realize how unsafe Egypt was at the time they were there. What I did like was how the author let these two girls learn from their experiences and how Sittu weighed in with her "advices." I also liked how Sittu and the girls talked about first love and how sweet and just immediate that was for them. Overall, Rebels by Accident was a fun, lovely, humorous, and bittersweet story about two girls experiencing a country in turmoil and getting to know a grandmother who was full of wisdom and love. It was also a story about these girls finding out who they are and can become. I'm definitely curious to see what Dunn writes next. Content: Some swearing and violence, but fairly clean. Source: I would like to thank Sourcebooks Fire for my complimentary copy received through NetGalley, which did not affect my review in any way.
gaele More than 1 year ago
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.  I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.   
SomaRostam More than 1 year ago
Beautiful and touching, one of the books that touched my heart and left a spot there that will never be erased. I loved this book, it is set in a time that was truly phenomenal and rebellious in the history of the World. This review will be REALLY long, since I have a lot to say, please stick with me. It's Mariam's second trip to the police station, but this time she is arrested because she was in a party with drugs and alcohol. It was her first party, but it looks like it's her last, too. Mariam can't even begin to expect her parents punishment, but to live the next 5 months of high school with her grandma in Egypt, talk a jail sentence. Mariam doesn't even know how to be a Muslim. At least there is a bright side to this, she gets to spend the 5 months with best friend, Deanna, she is coming, too! Well, it looks like her grandma, Sittu (Grandma in Arabic) isn't so bad. They get to climb one of the pyramids and ride on a camel's back. There are even cute guys here, like Hasan which Deanna seems to be head over heels in love with. But the conditions in Egypt are not very good right now, the youth are tweeting and posting about a rebellion and a demonstration. Suddenly, Mariam is caught in the middle of a rebellion, that's not only in the country, but also in ourselves. How will Mariam survive the guns shots and the tear-gases? What will she learn from this trip? And will she maybe, finally get the boy and her first kiss? Find out much more when you read this touchy, superior-crafted, realistic read, Rebels by Accident. I loved this book! Absolutely every part of it. This story really hit the core of my heart since it was set in a true setting. Me and my family spend months last year and even now, watching the news, witnessing the rebellion in Tunisia, Egypt, Libia. How people in those countries were finally done with their stupid, cruel unfair regimes and brought down every so-called president. The rebellion is still going in Syria and hundreds of people are killed and tortured every day, just watch CNN or BBC. There was even a small rebellion in my country, but the government managed to "shush" the people quickly, by torturing them and killing dozens. It was horrible, and heart-breaking, me and my parents prayed for those people to find their place in Heaven and for this cruel regime to end. Another aspect of this novel that I loved, is the development. When Mariam comes to Egypt, she doesn't even know Arabic or anything for that matter.But the way she learns is beautiful. They way Patricia Dunn, the author, makes readers understand the nature of Muslims. Many Muslims are prejudiced all around the world every day, people think that we are all like the gun-carrying murderous assassins who call their massacre, "Islam". And we are not all those pure, un-educated people who know nothing about the world and the technology. We are all like you, our souls are not the clothes we were, or the things we do. We are free here, females are free to do whatever they do, there is no rituals or rules that we need to stick to. Even if we wear cloaks or scarfs around our hair, we are just the same as you. We all make this world they way it is, we ARE the world. That's what Mariam learns trough this story. Nothing is shallow or superficial in this novel. Every characters have their deep levels and personalities. Deanne, Mariam's best friend is such an open-minded, easy learner, she is just so courageous and lovely. Hasan is the greatest guy you could meet. Sittu, Mariam's grandma is so wise and touchy, she is really breath taking. Even Mohammad is one the most courageous guys I have ever seen. Patricia Dunn has truly sewn this story of pure silk; it is soft, beautiful and touchy. It really portraits what was happening the Arab countries last year and even now, she has built a realistic story that will stick with readers, young and old, alike. If you want to open your eyes to the world, and keep your mind wide open, but still enjoy a tale of self-discovery, then I am pretty sure that this book will make it to your favorite reads of ALL TIME.
IngaKS More than 1 year ago
My review: The blurb seemed really interesting and caught my attention right away. So did the book itself. Rebels by Accident by Patricia Dunn is a very good YA novel; it is well written has very likable characters and touches important issues like coming of age, religion, family. It is easy to read and after you have turned the last page, you keep wanting more! Plot: The book starts with 15-years old girl Mariam being arrested on a party, having a conversation with her best friend Deanna. You quickly find out, that Mariam is American of Egyptian origin who got to go to her first party secretly without her parents knowing about it. As a result of her actions, her parents decide to send her to Cairo, Egypt to learn how to behave properly as a young Muslim woman. Mariam is mortified by her parents' decision and on her way to Cairo it seems that she hates everything about being a Muslim, being Egyptian, speaking Arabic language. It's her way to rebel against the school harassment and against her parents, she wants nothing to do with her heritage and religion, she just wants to be American. As the story develops you find out, that Mariam's grandmother - Sittu - is not as bad as it sounded and Mariam and Sittu are quickly creating a very strong bond with each other. Besides that, she discovers, that Egypt is different of what she has imagined: parts of it are much better and parts of it are much worse. She finds new friends, a new country to care about and last, but not least, her roots. The plot was fascinating, well created and quickly paced. The on thing which I missed though was better insight into the revolution in Egypt and its part in the plot. I do understand why the author did not emphasize it more and it is quite difficult to incorporate the revolution into YA novel, but I felt that this part of the book had a too sudden end to it. I wanted more! I was in Cairo few weeks after the revolution and I think that the author did a wonderful job to mirror, what happened with people and their country during the revolution. Characters: I really liked Mariam! I think that is due to the way author described her. Mariam had her insecurities and doubts about who she is and in the beginning of the story she really struggled to be like others. When she travelled to Cairo, she started to grow into a young woman knowing what she wants and how she wants it. What is even more important she found her roots and dealt with the fact that she is American Muslim and this is how she wants to be. Deanna, Mariam's best friend, was so lively and energetic, that it scared me! :) She could be severely annoying and stubborn like teenagers are, but she had a heart of gold. She was a sweet girl and I think her curiosity, enthusiasm and stubbornness leaded her into serious lessons she learned on the Tahrir Square. My favorite character in the book was Mariam's grandmother - Sittu. I adored that woman! I was happy that she was not made into a stereotypical Muslim grandmother, who forced Mariam into her decisions, but that she was well-educated, smart, modern and I loved she had a Facebook account (which not many women especially in her age use in Egypt)! I think that the advices (sic!) what she gave to Mariam helped her to become to a strong minded young woman. Generally: I highly recommend Rebels by Accident by Patricia Dunn!
Candace-LoveyDoveyBooks More than 1 year ago
Rebels by Accident is fun and enlightening. Patricia Dunn engages readers with a young Egyptian-American teen who struggles to accept being Muslim and her Egyptian roots. Every page captures the essence of a young girl who finds herself through hope and motivation. Mariam and her best friend Deanna are sent to Cairo, Egypt as a form of punishment. Turns out the trip not only straightens Mariam's attitude, but the time spent with her wise sittu also helps Mariam come to terms with who she is. Dunn gives Mariam's experience more than one outlet to inspire young teens. Mariam's learning to stand up for what she believes in and learning to believe in herself are just examples of the lessons that add value to the novel. Deanna and Mariam can both be considered the main protagonists of the novel, even though Deanna isn't Egyptian. Deanna's passion for Egyptian culture coupled with the fact that she has insecurities similar to Mariam's allows her to share the spotlight of the story. But, at times Mariam's thoughts center around Deanna just a little too much, and not enough on her own ideals and perspectives on the culture she's reacquainting herself with. Rebels by Accident is all in all an inspirational read that's not to be missed. Mariam's story is one that will no doubt reach the hearts of all through its realness and ability to relate to all readers. Originally posted on Lovey Dovey Books *ARC provided in exchange for an honest review*
BookLaneReader More than 1 year ago
I loved getting a unique view of what's going on in Egypt today through a teenager's eyes. Mariam is a great character, getting into trouble in the States and being sent to her grandmother in Egypt. My daughter (13 yrs old) loved it too and since she studied Egypt in school she really felt she knew more about present day Egypt. The writing is compelling. Hard to put down. Beautifully written.