BookBrowse Reviews Take It Back by Kia Abdullah

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Read-Alikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Take It Back

by Kia Abdullah

Take It Back by Kia Abdullah X
Take It Back by Kia Abdullah
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Dec 2020, 304 pages

    Jan 2022, 304 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
Buy This Book

About this Book



Kia Abdullah's courtroom drama centers on an incendiary rape trial in London.

In Kia Abdullah's novel Take It Back, sexual violence advisor Zara Kaleel becomes involved in a case where 16-year-old Jodie Wolfe is accusing four classmates of rape. Jodie has long been ostracized for having severe facial deformities resulting from a genetic condition, and she fears her claim will not be believed because, in her opinion, most people think no one would want to be intimate with someone so "ugly." Complicating the situation is the fact that the accused are socially popular and, at least superficially, well-behaved young men who are trusted by their community; they also happen to be Muslim. Zara, who is herself from a traditional Muslim family, agrees to help Jodie, which leads to a fascinating courtroom drama that forces Zara to re-evaluate the trajectory of her life and to acknowledge how her own background has influenced her decisions.

The book checks all the thematic boxes one would expect to encounter in a novel with the above setup. Abdullah illustrates how much a perceived difference in a person's appearance can impact others' perception of them, whether that difference is the color of their skin or a disfigurement. She also highlights the hostility held by some citizens of Western countries toward those from a Muslim background, and the distrust of white individuals that some Muslims develop as a result. Beyond that, the author uses Zara to illustrate the challenges modern Muslim women may face when trying to balance the demands of a career with the traditional expectations of their families.

The trial at the center of the novel is exceptionally well-written, quite captivating and the book's highlight. Abdullah skillfully shifts perspective on who is the guilty party; one minute we believe Jodie, the next, her supposed attackers. We aren't sure of the truth until the last page, and the tension the author creates keeps the narrative moving quickly.

Less convincing are the sections that concern Zara's personal struggles. She's portrayed as trying to distract herself with men and drugs, but it's never really clear how or why she developed these habits. Over the course of the novel, she shows growth, but while she commits minor errors that help her realize she may have a problem, there's no real crisis that forces change. She exhibits a great deal of rancor toward her family members, but there's not enough information about how tensions rose so high, and the conversations between her and her brother, the head of the family, border on cartoonish.

I also felt some of the scenes focusing on the boys were contrived. There are discussions between them from which it's clear something happened, but the manner in which these scenes are written makes them lack believability; in many cases they come across not so much as realistic dialogues between teenage boys as they do inelegantly inserted teasers.

Given the serious subject matter, I wouldn't necessarily call Take It Back a light read, but it's definitely an engrossing one in spite of its flaws. It holds up as a courtroom drama and will keep most readers engaged from start to finish. It's recommended for those looking for a bit of escapism, and particularly those who enjoy fast-paced books involving jury trials.

Reviewed by Kim Kovacs

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in January 2021, and has been updated for the February 2022 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  DNA Profiling


Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Take It Back, try these:

  • The Favor jacket

    The Favor

    by Nora Murphy

    Published 2023

    About this book

    A gripping debut domestic suspense novel, Nora Murphy's thrilling The Favor explores with compassion and depth what can happen when women pushed to the limit take matters into their own hands.

  • The Liar jacket

    The Liar

    by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen

    Published 2020

    About this book

    More by this author

    From the award-winning author of Waking Lions, a provocative novel about how one mistake can have a thousand consequences

We have 6 read-alikes for Take It Back, but non-members are limited to two results. To see the complete list of this book's read-alikes, you need to be a member.
Search read-alikes
How we choose read-alikes

Become a Member

Join BookBrowse today to start discovering exceptional books!

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Lost Wife
    The Lost Wife
    by Susanna Moore
    The Lost Wife is a hard-hitting novella based in part on a white settler named Sarah Wakefield's ...
  • Book Jacket
    Firekeeper's Daughter
    by Angeline Boulley
    Voted 2021 Best Young Adult Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    Angeline Boulley's young adult ...
  • Book Jacket: Hello Beautiful
    Hello Beautiful
    by Ann Napolitano
    Ann Napolitano's much-anticipated Hello Beautiful pulls the reader into a warm, loving familial ...
  • Book Jacket: The West
    The West
    by Naoíse Mac Sweeney
    It's become common for history books and courses to reconsider the emphasis on "Western Civilization...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The First Conspiracy
by Brad Meltzer & Josh Mensch
A remarkable and previously untold piece of American history—the secret plot to kill George Washington

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Pieces of Blue
    by Holly Goldberg Sloan

    A hilarious and heartfelt novel for fans of Maria Semple and Emma Straub.

Win This Book
Win Girlfriend on Mars

30 Copies to Give Away!

A funny and poignant debut novel that skewers billionaire-funded space travel in a love story of interplanetary proportions.



Solve this clue:

S I F A R Day

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.