Publisher: Salaam Reads
Release Date: April 30, 2019
Received From: NetGalley / Purchased from Amazon
A marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.
An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.
But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.
When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.
Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.
Then her path crosses with Adam’s.
Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.
Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father.
Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals.
Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…
Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.
Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting.
SEXUALITY: presumed heterosexual
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: presumed heteroromantic
TROPES: vacation romance, epistolary
TAGS: young adult, new adult, romance, contemporary, Muslim characters, disabled character (multiple sclerosis), Asian characters, Chinese character, Pakistani character, West Indian character, Trinidadian character, Guyanese character, multiracial character, biracial character, immigrant character, interracial romance
WARNINGS: slurs, gendered slurs, racial slurs, religion (Islam), Islamphobia, racism, cultural appropriation, anti-Native, ableism, hospitalization, medical procedures, binary language, anti-ace language, parental death
I fell in love with this book and it’s characters from the very first page!
Zayneb is such a fierce person and comes in strong from her first appearance. Right from the beginning, we know that she’s a steady, powerful advocate who stands up for what’s right, no matter the consequence to herself. Outside the theme of standing against Islamphobia and taking down her racist teacher, there are several scenes where she stands firm against racism and cultural appropriation, even when it might make her unpopular and unwelcome. Throughout the course of the novel, as we get to know her more, we also get to see the softer sides of her, the ways she cares about those she loves, as well as her vulnerabilities and insecurities. She’s an incredibly complex character who is at times frustrating but always someone you feel you can stand behind.
Similarly, Adam is a wonderful character, full of depth. He’s quiet and at times doesn’t seem to really fit into the groups in his life, but he’s also a caretaker and strives for peace. Even dealing with his diagnosis of multiple sclerosis and how it will affect his life, Adam endeavors to take care of the people he loves and puts their emotions before his own. It was interesting to watch his journey to learning that achieving peace doesn’t always equate to putting others first and being non-confrontational, parallel to Zayneb’s learning that confrontation also isn’t always the right way. And I adored the relationship between Adam and his younger sister, and how much he loved her!
While I can’t comment on the MS rep, I did appreciate that learning of his disability didn’t change things between Adam and any of the characters within the book. HIs family, his friends, and Zayneb all treated him like the same person, not someone to be pitied because of the change in his life and how the diagnosis will affect everyday life for him.
Overall, this story was a wonderful read and I absolutely recommend.
S. K. Ali is the author of Saints and Misfits, a 2018 William C. Morris finalist. She lives in Toronto with her family, which includes a very vocal cat named Yeti. Her second novel, LOVE FROM A TO Z, a story about finding love in the time of Islamophobia, was published on April 30, 2019 by Simon & Schuster. She also has a picture book co-authored with Team USA Olympic Medalist, Ibtihaj Muhammad, THE PROUDEST BLUE releasing on September 10, 2019, published by Little, Brown. Find her on twitter at https://twitter.com/SajidahWrites, on instagram at https://www.instagram.com/skalibooks/ and on her website at https://skalibooks.com/.