Love From A to Z

Love From A to Z

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 Mus...

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Title:Love From A to Z
Author:S.K. Ali
Rating:

Love From A to Z Reviews

  • Adiba Jaigirdar

    This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year and IT DID NOT DISAPPOINT. It was actually somehow so much better than I could have imagined it would be. Just wow. Five stars is not even enough.

    The book is told through alternative perspectives of Zeynab and Adam, both of them writing in "Marvels and Oddities" journals of their own. Both of them are Muslim, from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. And they're

    different from each other, in the best possible ways.

    Zeynab, my absolut

    This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year and IT DID NOT DISAPPOINT. It was actually somehow so much better than I could have imagined it would be. Just wow. Five stars is not even enough.

    The book is told through alternative perspectives of Zeynab and Adam, both of them writing in "Marvels and Oddities" journals of their own. Both of them are Muslim, from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. And they're

    different from each other, in the best possible ways.

    Zeynab, my absolute favourite character who I relate to on a level that I thought was almost impossible, is fuelled by anger. She's angry because of the injustice of the world. Because she's a brown Muslim hijabi who has been unfairly treated too many times, simply because of who she is. She is such a brilliant character because her anger and frustration is palpable and utterly real. She wants to fight the injustice that she, and others, face simply for existing, but it's not easy to fight when everyone is telling you that your anger needs to be tamped down. That you're bringing on more trouble than it's worth. But Zeynab shows us that anger is okay, and good and important.

    Adam is pretty much the exact opposite. He's not angry. He's possibly the sweetest and most peaceful character ever. He converted to Islam when he was 9 years old, after his mother passed away, because he wanted to find peace. He is loving, kind, and caring, but he's also scared of the fact that he's been diagnosed with the same disease that killed his mother: MS. He's scared of confronting the reality of this and dealing with his family's reactions.

    Together, Zeynab and Adam bring out the absolute best in each other, even if they're not always in sync. They have so much chemistry in this book--both as two friends who have a lot of respect for each other--and two people who are undeniably falling for each other. There is one scene where their differences spell disaster, and it's so brilliantly crafted. And so human and so honest.

    The themes this book deals with is also just...incredibly important, especially in this day and age. Yes, it's a love story that centers two Muslim POC. It's also about the difficulties that Muslims face today. The everyday microaggressions that pick away at you. The big injustices, like a teacher who thinks he can paint all Muslims with the same brush and still be the "victim" and make Muslims the "villain." It's about how all over the world Muslim are being treated unjustly, being

    and often nobody cares. In fact, many people think we deserve it because we exist, we dare to be Muslim. ALL OF THIS IS IN THIS BOOK.

    At times, this book felt like the middle of a conversation that I have with my Muslim friends about my frustration. Like Ali had listened in on my frustrations, all of the things that plague the lives of Muslims nowadays, and written them down into a book.

    This is all gushing but...it's difficult to find books like this that center

    so wholly and unapologetically. This book makes it very clear that it's written

    Muslims. It doesn't try to water down its message or its Muslimness. It's peppered with all of the little things that colour the lives of Muslims in ways that non-Muslims don't experience. And it never tries to explain it to non-Muslims. It centers

    , caters to

    , first and foremost.

    Please please please read this book! It is so important in so many different ways that I can't even write it all down here. I highly highly recommend it for EVERYONE.

  • Fadwa (Word Wonders)

    Original review posted on my blog :

    Marvel: The fact that Love from A to Z exists.

    Oddity: The fact that I already read it and there isn’t any more to the story.

    Do you ever go into a book, expect to love it and then…end up loving it even more? Like

    Original review posted on my blog :

    Marvel: The fact that Love from A to Z exists.

    Oddity: The fact that I already read it and there isn’t any more to the story.

    Do you ever go into a book, expect to love it and then…end up loving it even more? Like so much more that you can physically feel it because your heart is squeezing in your chest and all those feelings are begging to burst out of it, because that’s me. I have so so much love for Love from A to Z that I feel like no matter what I end up saying in this review, it won’t do it justice, and I know I love a few other Muslim contemporary books but not one of them has made me feel the way this one made me feel. Happy. Hopeful. Proud to be Muslim. Proud to be me.

    The writing is absolutely gorgeous. I knew I loved Ali’s writing in Saints and Misfits, but she just blows it out of the water with her sophomore novel. She has this way with words where she knows just the exact ones to use to make the reader feel whatever emotion the character is feeling without ever being told that that’s how we should feel, it just…happens, and I found myself so invested in Adam and Zayneb’s emotions and personal stakes and journeys that I couldn’t help but root for their growth, not only separately but also together.

    Love from A to Z is written in dual perspective, as diary entries in the form of “Marvels” and “Oddities” from both of the main characters’ journals which made the narration introspective and reflective and I loved that about it. There were also a couple narrator interventions that added such a nice touch to the book, further solidifying the fact that these are journals excerpts combined into one book. It also gave it somewhat of a fairytale feel.

    The book starts when Zayneb is suspended from school, one week before spring break beings and is sent to spend two weeks with her aunt in Doha, while on the other side of the Atlantic ocean, in London, Adam is packing to go back home to his dad and sister in Doha. First of all, can I say how appreciative I am of the non-Western setting to the story? I loved it so much, mainly for the fact that Qatar is a Muslim country so it was -almost- completely removed from the context of Islamophobia Zayneb is so used to, living in the US, as a hijabi, a very visibly Muslim woman.

    I also appreciated how through her characters main and side alike, the author showed so many different Muslim experiences. From Zayneb who was born and raised Muslim, to Adam who converted at eleven, including her mom who converted when she got married and his dad when he was grieving his own wife. And I love how all the things that make them the Muslim people they are were thrown so casually, as it should be.

    Love from A to Z tackles Islamophobia but not in its loudest, most violent forms. It dives deep into the daily struggles of Muslims in the US (and other western countries), it shows how teachers, neighbors, acquaintances can all hate you for merely stating your beliefs and they wouldn’t tell you out right, they wouldn’t spit it in your face, but every and each word is wrapped in barbs and wires, every and each word is uttered with hatred that they don’t even try to hide, every and each word is said to tell you that you are everything that is wrong with the world for existing, for daring to believe in something different from what they believe in. And that hate speech wears you thin until you snap, and when you snap, to them, it’s not a human reaction, it’s proving them that everything they’ve ever thought about you is right. And that hurt so much to read, but it was also incredible. Because Islamophobia isn’t always loud and in your face, it’s the seemingly Mr. nobody, the “nice” person next door too. That’s what her teacher, Mr. Fencer represents.

    And I loved how that was handled with everything in me. I loved how Zayneb in all her perfect imperfection handled it. I loved Zayneb and how unapologetically Muslim and unapologetically angry she was. And you know what I loved most about her? It’s that anger, and the way she navigated it. I could see so much of myself in her because I was that angry kid who burst out at every occasion and I was that angry teenager who had to learn to pick her battles, and that sometimes your anger is sometimes better quiet. I saw myself in her portrayal as an angry Muslim girl who was always told to keep her head down, to stop being so angry even when there are so many things to be angry about. So I loved seeing her grow and embrace that anger while also learning to wield it without ever really letting go of it, because I’m still an angry adult. I’ve just learned better.

    Zayneb is jaded beyond her years because of the discrimination she faces, she’s also angry at said discriminations and refuses to hide it, she’s very vocal about everything that’s wrong with the world and feels the pain, not only hers but also that of every injustice, very deeply and wants to DO something about it. She is strong, confident and so so open about her feelings and that was very refreshing to read. She was also unapologetic and very sure in her Muslim-ness, and nothing could sway her from that, not even the world’s hatred. I was angry, sad, and happy for her all at once. Zayneb is Trini-Pakistani (her Trini side being of West Indian descent) and through her Pakistani side, Ali was able to broach the topic of the victims to the wars that are raging in West Asia (mainly Pakistan for…obvious reasons) as we speak, without erasing the US’ role in all those lost lives, and destroyed lands. And how even as a diaspora kid, Zayneb was still grieving for her people. And this is an element I didn’t expect to find in the story.

    On the other hand, we have Adam, a biracial white/Chinese boy who’s so soft and gentle and caring, and who’s strength is more quiet, it works behind the scenes and shows in the way he is with his sister, his friends, and the way he’s been such a pillar for his family through all their hardships. He’s wildly optimistic and likes to see the good in things while still having this sadness to him that was ingrained in him by losing his mom, seeing his dad grieve and then finding out that he, himself, has the disease that killed his mom and having to come to term with it. I cannot speak for the representation of Multiple Sclerosis in this book but as the author’s note says, and, Adam’s manifestation of MS is just one of so many.

    Now you’re probably raising your eyebrows and wondering: Fadwa, this book deals with so many heavy topics, why the hell does your title say “Unapologetically happy”, and let me tell you that despite the hardships, heartbreak, the grief, the sadness and the anger, Love from A to Z gave me an unfiltered kind of happiness that only a few books have given me. That happiness that comes with seeing representation that’s *for* me, and every other Muslim reader out there. That happiness that comes with seeing your feelings and struggles mirrored and validated. That happiness that comes with seeing that despite everything we can be put through, we still find ways to be happy, we still can be happy. It’s the kind of happiness that makes you cry.

    Ali showed that even though, we, as Muslims, deal with a ton of shit, we still deserve our happiness and claw our way to it, while we still manage to find it in the smallest of things. Love from A to Z made me smile with Hanna (Adam’s little sister) in all her heartwarming innocence and adorableness, it made me laugh in the little dorky jokes that run between Adam and Zayneb, in the inside jokes that only Muslims can get the full impact of because we’ve either made the same ones, or have heard someone make them, and it made me fall in love with Adam & Zayneb’s love. Like seriously, they do not as much as touch until THE EPILOGUE and yet they had me internally screaming for their love and chemistry from the start. The banter between them flows so easily and I loved how open they were about their attraction to each other without acting on it. The anticipation of them finally being together was well fed by their cuteness once I reached the epilogue, so much so that it had me squealing. I lived for those last few pages.

    By the time I flipped to the last page, my heart was filled with love and gratefulness and my eyes with tears. It was such a bittersweet feeling because on the one hand, I’m so happy this book exists I could wax poetry about it, but on the other hand I’m so sad there isn’t more of it, that I can’t read Love from A to Z for the first time all over again and experience the range of emotions it made me feel for the first time again.

  • Sakina (aforestofbooks)

    AMAZING. GO PREORDER THIS RIGHT NOW. REVIEW TO COME ON RELEASE DAY

    Today is the day...Love from A to Z is out in the world! So go out and get it form your local bookstore or borrow it from the library, because this book will absolutely melt your heart and change your life completely!

    Okay, now for my review, which I wrote the day after I finished this book:

    I stan one contemporary author and that author is S.K. Ali

    Where do I even start… My heart feels full. This story will always have a special pla

    AMAZING. GO PREORDER THIS RIGHT NOW. REVIEW TO COME ON RELEASE DAY

    Today is the day...Love from A to Z is out in the world! So go out and get it form your local bookstore or borrow it from the library, because this book will absolutely melt your heart and change your life completely!

    Okay, now for my review, which I wrote the day after I finished this book:

    I stan one contemporary author and that author is S.K. Ali

    Where do I even start… My heart feels full. This story will always have a special place in my soul.

    When I saw the cover reveal a few months back, I immediately knew I needed this book in my life. I mean…THERE IS AN ACTUAL HIJABI ON THE COVER *cries tears of joy* I don’t think tiny, 10-year-old Sakina ever thought she would see someone who looked like her on a cover of a book. And I know for a fact, that present Sakina never thought she would read a Muslim romance, that was done in a halal way, and actually enjoy it?!!

    (Special thanks to

    for sending me her extra copy. This book has changed my life in so many good ways.)

    I am sad. A little. This is the book I needed growing up. But it didn’t exist then. And while I am really happy with how far publishing has come since I was little, I can’t help feeling a little jealous of how today’s young Muslim girls and boys get to see themselves represented in a book. That being said, this book touches on so many important topics, including Islamophobia, which I definitely think is more prevalent now than it was when I was little.

    I don’t even know how to start reviewing this book. I fell in love with Zayneb in the first chapter. She’s strong and not afraid to stand up for herself and her faith. And I know this is something I struggle with. I’m not a very vocal person. I don’t like to draw attention to myself, and I hate arguing with people. But I still feel strongly. I just tend to keep my feelings in or express them to close friends. At the same time, I know it’s my duty as a Muslim to stand up against injustice and that I should do more.

    Zayneb’s character arc in this book was really well done. She learns that it’s okay to be angry. That she has every right to feel the way she feels. But she learns to channel her anger in a less destructive way that is just as productive. I love how she learned not to stay silent and move on with life, and I really liked the scene where she explains everything to her mother at the end and her mom realizes what Zayneb is going through and why she can’t just keep quiet and invisible.

    That scene where Zayneb notices the little white girl on the plane and realizes how differently she is treated just because she doesn’t look or dress like Zayneb, hurt so bad. Reading this book made me realize how rare it is to find a character that I can fully relate to. Zayneb’s experiences in many ways mirror mine and a lot of other Muslims around the world. It’s reality for us, even though it shouldn’t be. And it sucks. But I love the way this was included in the book.

    ADAM CHEN…aka the most perfect friend, brother, and son. The little meet-cute on the airplane had me squealing. Especially when Adam makes excuses to go to the bathroom multiple times to try and talk to Zayneb but she’s either sleeping or some annoying flight attendants are in the way of romance.

    Adam has a secret, and if you’ve read the synopsis, you know he has MS. You learn that his mother died from MS when he was little. Adam’s story is full of pain. My heart ached the entire time when I wasn’t dying from all the cuteness. Knowing how his mother’s death affected his father, Adam doesn’t want to tell his dad just yet. He wants to avoid what his diagnosis will lead to. The little glimpses we see of Adam with his mother, how he secretly struggles with his MS, until he finally tells his father, it hurts a lot. I was almost in tears at so many points throughout this book. Adam is my child and I just wanted to protect him. I wanted to see him happy and hopeful and in love. He’s such a good person and he deserves lots of hugs.

    Adam and Zayneb’s relationship…I loved every aspect of it. We get to see what “halal dating” looks like, the proper precautions and steps that need to be taken, and we get to see both characters consider these things multiple times in the book. That was something I never thought I would ever read in fiction.

    Zayneb does try to tone herself down. She tries to be quieter and not voice her thoughts or opinions on everything. And I knew we were headed towards a breaking point. And when that happened, I expected Adam’s reaction. Zayneb did cross a line; her anger got the best of her. But we also see how Adam doesn’t experience the same Islamophobia that Zayneb does on account of the fact that he’s a convert and lives in a majority Muslim country. And I found this an interesting contrast that’s also very important. I sometimes forget how different it is growing up in a community where everyone you know is Muslim. I’m constantly cautious and thinking about what I’m doing and whether it’ll make some people think negatively about Islam. When an act of terrorism occurs somewhere in the world, I can feel people noticing me more than they usually do. I stand out. I feel uneasy and vulnerable. My experiences are different compared to other Muslims. And for Adam, I think this was an important lesson. To realize how different things are, and what Zayneb is going through.

    Anyway, back to the relationship. I loved Zayneb’s parents and how they viewed relationships. They taught Zayneb the halal and proper way to go about it. As long as boundaries were followed, and she was in a group setting, she could be friendly with anyone. I love this so much more than the classic arranged marriage story that we see. There’s a lot more openness when relationships are viewed in this way, and it was nice to see a character slowly falling in love, but not being afraid of the consequences of telling their parents. And it was all halal too! I loved seeing the thoughts that would go through Zayneb and Adam’s heads. How they wanted to reach out to each other, but they would stop themselves because it wasn’t right. How they sidestepped talking to each other/flirting using creative ways. I’m still dying over Adam being “thirsty for water.”

    I SAW THAT SAINTS AND MISFITS REFERENCE AND I LOVED IT.

    The ending…Adam, his dad, and Hanna spending time together in the room Adam made. It was so emotional. I love their relationship so much. It’s so pure and heartwarming.

    I haven’t touched much on Fencer or Zayneb’s friends. I didn’t know this was based off of a true story, but I really loved how Noemi joined in with Kavi and Ayaan. In some cases, we need the support from our white and non-Muslim friends to stand up against Islamophobia. It showed Fencer that it wasn’t just Zayneb speaking out against his Islamophobic and racist topics in class, she had the support from other people as well.

    The end…the cutest, sweetest, most adorable ending I have ever read. I was all smiles. And I had happy tears in my eyes.

    Some of my favourite quotes:

    5/5 stars. I can’t recommend this book enough. I feel happy and full of all these wonderful emotions.

    (Sidenote: there’s a scene where Adam and Zayneb discuss who Zayneb is named after ie. she’s named after the Prophet’s cousin. I had never heard of her before and am way more familiar with the Prophet’s granddaughter, who’s name is also Zaynab. Our main character definitely feels more similar to the Prophet’s granddaughter, who stood up against oppression and injustice, all while being dragged in chains from Iraq to Syria, hijab ripped off her head by the same people who killed her brother and family.)

  • شيماء ✨

    This book resonated in chambers of my heart I’d never known existed. It stirred memories too deep to claim, and it all poured out of me and onto every surface, taking something vital with it. There is still an expansiveness in my chest that reminds me of how important voices like these are, for readers like us. This feeling is a language all its own: to reach and find, to be reached for and found, to belong to a mutual certainty.

    is one of the most unapologetically Muslim books t

    This book resonated in chambers of my heart I’d never known existed. It stirred memories too deep to claim, and it all poured out of me and onto every surface, taking something vital with it. There is still an expansiveness in my chest that reminds me of how important voices like these are, for readers like us. This feeling is a language all its own: to reach and find, to be reached for and found, to belong to a mutual certainty.

    is one of the most unapologetically Muslim books that I’ve ever read, and I’m so glad it exists.

    S.K Ali’s newest offering to the YA literary landscape arrives through the voice of Zayneb, an eighteen-year-old Hijabi, who got suspended for confronting her teacher with his Islamophobia. Zayneb’s parents send her to Doha to spend two weeks with her aunt, and they do it in the spirit of hope: that Zayneb could rest there, and push the sour remains of her anger and frustration to the back of her mind.

    Zayneb might not be the kind to bandy about words like fate and destiny, but she would not deny that it is something of that kind that drew Adam to her path. Zayneb and Adam meet on their flight to Doha, and ever since, they seem to be on a glorious, relentless glissade on a straight track for each other.

    Zayneb and Adam are both stretching thin with the effort of shoring up their dam—but the enormity of their weariness is lapping at the edges. Zayneb’s suspension went down like a mouthful of thorns, and when all her anger was sucked away, it left a void. Adam is a college student who stopped going to his classes when he’s been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis—the same disease that took his mother’s life, and who is wrestling with the reluctance to tell his grieving father and sister about it.

    The more Zayneb and Adam’s secrets remain unuttered, the more they wither and turn inward, becoming difficult to coax out. No wonder then that they both keep a journal of Marvels and Oddities where they can take anything a little out of the ordinary and embroider it into the pages, and where their feelings, like magma, rising, could find a place to erupt. With every conversation and every traded truth, Zayneb and Adam carry a torch down to the deepest, darkest dungeon of each other’s selves. But soon, the seed of difference they had been ignoring up until that point grows into something that threatens to topple them both.

    It has something like tears and something like laughter and something that isn’t either, something profound and primal and pure. It’s a masterful, unsparing exploration of the distorting weight of prejudice, discrimination, racism and Islamophobia, and a remarkably lifelike portrait of what it’s like to be Muslim today.

    Reading this book, a few things came home to me—things I had always known but that had to been buried under the days of my life. It was as if a clawed hand had sunk its talons into my mind, cutting through memories, letting emotion bleed. One memory, in particular, suddenly afflicted me afresh as poignantly as if it happened minutes before.

    I used to put on a hijab for most of middle school and high school before I took it off when I was around 17—a year before I immigrated to Europe for college, and about two years after I was selected, the only freshman, to attend a European festival for high school students in France.

    We had a conference call with the organizers of the festival, and they had made it clear that I would be expected to take off my Hijab once there. Something about making people “uncomfortable”. After a few other flimsy excuses, some scattered awkward laughs, and twelve expectant pair of eyes zeroed in on me, I nodded. At the time, an uneasiness stirred inside of me, a flutter of unhappiness. “

    ”, a voice in the back of my head whispered, but I was too young—perhaps even too

    —to put up much of a fight, to ask what was so threatening about a piece of cloth wrapped around my head, or to even fathom how incredibly, flagrantly,

    Islamophobic that was. I still remember looking around, expecting one of the adults in the room to speak up—one of the seniors, my teacher, the

    . It had taken me years to understand, and still longer to unravel my feelings about it when I did. It’s the kind of memory you smash down whenever it tries to well up. But when it does, a burning disappointment and anger fills you, quick as the strike of a match. Don’t get me wrong, the festival turned out to be a lot of fun—it’s just that sometimes my recollection of it tastes too much like ashes.

    What happened that day remained an arrowhead in my side, buried too deep to dig out. A large part of my decision to take off my Hijab, I had realized years later, could be so easily traced back to it. When I doffed my Hijab, I was thinking that life had enough hard edges without someone seeing the scarf around my head and considering me less than they were. And I cannot tell you how abound my heart is with so much awe and respect for all my Muslim soul sisters who don their Hijab every day and stand defiant in the face of hatred. You are the strongest people I’ll ever know.

    I'm telling you this because the condescension and malevolence that Zayneb is continuously made to endure struck me, but it didn’t

    me. Like a reaction you’re used to but that hasn’t lost any of its sting. I don’t think I could have contemplated such cruelty, were my mind not full of the sight of my own past experiences, had the recent terrorist attacks in New Zealand not woken an old emotion, one I had never had much use for:

    . The kind that clams down on you like a vise. The kind that seeps into the marrow of your bone and becomes as much a part of you as your molecules.

    Reading Zayneb's story, recognition blazed inside me, sharp as a shock. It felt like my insides were bruised, a weariness in me so great I thought I would sink into the earth. Because I

    . I

    . I know what it’s like to have a churn of fears sitting deep in your gut like swallowed stones, and inexorably, they'd start grinding together to gnaw at you from within. Inside Zayneb, something was coiled, growing tighter and tighter with every scathing remark, every micro-aggression, every new injustice. It’s the whimper that never quite turns into a scream. It’s crying out, but your screams are silent even to yourself. An unutterable weight of sorrow falls upon me at the knowledge that there are millions of Muslims whose experiences can be so easily placed alongside Zayneb’s, alongside my own. It isn’t fair, and it smites my heart.

    is also a bold and illuminating tale of a young man diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The author handles Adam’s story with such respect and delicacy, gently spooling out his struggles and triumphs in the face of the disease. I really liked Adam’s character. I’m a sucker for soft boys, and that’s exactly what Adam is. He’s a study in kindness and tenderness, and his hand is an open, fluent kind that anyone can read upside down.

    Although this novel confronts, with boldness, weightier subjects—Islamophobia, the unhuman treatment of migrant workers in the Middle East, drone strikes in Pakistan—it’s at its heart

    . I love Adam and Zayneb’s relationship. How they were slowly probing the delicate hyperspace they sketched between them, in the manner in which you’d explore a fragile trust. Adam, although he’s also Muslim, cannot really perceive how different his experience is from Hijabi women who have to weather so much more on a daily basis. But Adam eventually learns to

    . Similarly, Zayneb cannot put herself in Adam's shoes either—all she can do is be there for him. Mostly, I love that both had their own stories in the years and days before they became part of one, and it’s a marvelous thing when they join it and we come to the meeting of the waterways. I love how their personal, separate struggles in the world do not change their moments together, the comfort they contain, or the fixed point they represent on the tangled structure of their lives. Their story left me with hope in the place of…everything else.

    Overall,

    is a brilliant, beautifully written and developed novel, and I'm excited to see what conversations it provokes. Highly recommended!

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  • Noura Khalid (theperksofbeingnoura)

    Here's my attempt to string together a bunch of sentences about the best thing that has ever happened to me.

    When I heard that a book like this was going to exists I was ecstatic. S.K. Ali wrote a book that made me feel seen. Books featuring Muslim characters are quite rare. I've made it my goal to read as many books centering around Muslims as possible this year. This book right here is wh

    Here's my attempt to string together a bunch of sentences about the best thing that has ever happened to me.

    When I heard that a book like this was going to exists I was ecstatic. S.K. Ali wrote a book that made me feel seen. Books featuring Muslim characters are quite rare. I've made it my goal to read as many books centering around Muslims as possible this year. This book right here is what every Muslim reader should get their hands on. The struggles that Muslim's go through is depicted so so well. Especially, for girls who wear the Hijab (headscarf).

    Zayneb's feelings resonated with me so strongly. I cried a couple of times during the book, and it's been so long since I've cried properly about a book. Zayneb was so headstrong and such an unapologetic Muslim, and I loved it! Adam was a complete ray of sunshine. In a way I felt like I related to him more. From his actions to the way he thought. Literally everything. Both characters had such complex personalities, and were very different from each other. Both of them had their own difficulties to face. Both dealt with them as best they could and in their own way. I loved their relationship above all, and I loved the way I could relate to them. Especially in the Muslim side of things.

    I honestly never thought I'd ever get the chance to read a book like this. My heart is so full and I'm so grateful to have been given the chance to read and review this. I think every Muslim will appreciate the effort that was put into this. I hope this book also helps change the perception of Muslims in the world right now. Because I read this and I felt represented like never before. It brings tears to my eyes just typing this. I want the world to read this book and see things from our point of view. See the way we live and how it's so unlike what is shown on the media today.

    I've written many reviews at this point but none have made me feel the way I do right now. Thank you to S.K. Ali for making this Muslim girl feel seen and proud to be who she is.

  • Acqua

    It's the kind of contemporary that manages to develop a very sweet romance while also talking about painful and heavy topics, without neglecting any of these aspects.

    This is the story of

    (West Indian, specifically Guyanese and Trinidadian)

    living in America, and

    , as they meet in an airport during their trip t

    It's the kind of contemporary that manages to develop a very sweet romance while also talking about painful and heavy topics, without neglecting any of these aspects.

    This is the story of

    (West Indian, specifically Guyanese and Trinidadian)

    living in America, and

    , as they meet in an airport during their trip to Doha, in Qatar. They're both going through a difficult time in their lives, as Zayneb has just been suspended for speaking out against an Islamophobic teacher and Adam is

    .

    It's a story about young Muslims living and falling in love, dealing with what it means to be a young Muslim in love in today's world.

    This book starts with a scene in which a teacher is being openly, unashamedly Islamophobic in front of his students. I wish I could say it felt unrealistic, exaggerated - I wish this weren't the truth of so many people's lives (and I wish I could say I didn't have an experience with teachers being openly bigoted in class).

    It gets the weight of everyday microaggressions, and the way they feed into bigger things; it gets what it means to notice that many people believe your life is worth less.

    I don't mean that just because it's hilarious at times - the sense of humor and banter in here... wow - but because while living as a marginalized teen means dealing with all of these things,

    , and with its hopeful message,

    shows the importance of finding your voice and speaking up against injustice, and also of accepting help while doing that.

    I loved Adam and Zayneb, both as individual characters and as a couple.

    . While they do encounter obstacles in their relationship, they find a way to communicate and overcome them, and they were always respectful of each other. I felt really strongly about the romance - which is something seeing how overwhelmingly heterosexual this book was (which is probably the only thing I didn't like about it, because I never like that, but all things considered, it's minor).

    Zayneb's PoV was my favorite. She's brave and flawed and just trying her best, and I both understood her and admired her.

    My favorite part about Adam's PoV was his relationship with his family, how he cares about them and they care about him, and they're all trying to help and not hurt each other while going through a difficult situation. They mess up, sometimes, but they're always there for each other.

    , and it shows. It doesn't feel the need to explain the things the characters do in everyday life, which means that sometimes I had to use google, and I loved that.

    . No matter your situation, I think you can get something out of this, be it an adorable love story you can relate to or seeing things from a point of view that you hadn't seen before in literature (or both!)

    Also, I'm not American, and

    . I think it really could be helpful to many people here, in different ways - for its multilayered and positive portrayal of Muslims, for its callout of white feminism and Islamophobic microaggressions, for being a very well-written, healthy romance.

    One more thing: if you've read

    , this book has a

    and... that was the most satisfying cameo I've ever seen in a YA book.

  • Julie Zantopoulos

    ARC provided by the publishers and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

    I am not an own voices reader for this novel but I have read the reviews of a few and I love that they believe this story so closely mirrors their own lives and is a reflection of themselves, their culture, and their struggles with Islamaphobia and navigating the world we live in. It honestly makes my heart so happy.

    At the core of this story is Zayneb, a Muslim girl fro

    ARC provided by the publishers and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

    I am not an own voices reader for this novel but I have read the reviews of a few and I love that they believe this story so closely mirrors their own lives and is a reflection of themselves, their culture, and their struggles with Islamaphobia and navigating the world we live in. It honestly makes my heart so happy.

    At the core of this story is Zayneb, a Muslim girl from Indiana whose father is from Pakistan and whose mother is Guyanese and Trinidadian. She has a loving family, great friends, and an incredibly problematic and Islamaphobic teacher who frequently uses her religion and culture as an example of oppression and what's wrong in the world. Zayneb's mother wants her to behave, to not make noise at school, but one day she can take no more and her outburst gets her suspended from school prior to a scheduled break and so she leaves early for her aunt's place in Doha (Qatar). It's on her way there that we meet Adam, a Muslim himself (who converted and is Asian by heritage).

    We also get Adam's POV in this novel, Adam who is returning to his father and sister in Doha on break from University in London. Where Zayneb is fierce he's quiet and thoughtful. He's the soft but sturdy love interest that teenage girls may overlook but wiser women know you cherish. He loves his sister, is protective of his father, and incredibly loyal to those he loves. He's dealing with his own guilt and issues throughout the novel and turns to creating things and art to help himself through. That and Zayneb's smile and her bright blue hijabs. He's fallen for her, hard, and it's so touching to see. Throughout the novel, he is so respectful of her culture, their shared beliefs and religion, and the way that dating and courtship needs to proceed for Zayneb. He's open, he communicates, he's thoughtful and caring...the least toxic of men and I love him for it.

    We see over and over throughout the novel how Zayneb is treated by those who are too closed minded to open their eyes to other cultures and religions. Whether it is her decision to wear a hijab, to wear different swim attire, or to speak her mind when she sees injustice (there's a scene where she confronts a fellow teen about wearing a Native American headdress because it was "trendy" and I legit cheered, guys!) Zayneb doesn't know how to sit quietly by when she sees something wrong in the world. I adore her for it! She's strong, she's passionate, and even when it scares her she's not going to let those things slide. She battles a lot with her mother's expectations of her and the fire burning inside her to do something, to get angry and to act. It's so real, so raw, and it's beautifully handled with angry and sad tears and lots of honest communication.

    This is a stunning look at friendship, at first loves, forever loves, family relationships, racism, loss of loved ones, hate crimes, injustice, and hope. It's a beautiful and important story with themes that I think will speak to everyone. I HATE when people compare new books to other popular books-and I won't say this is the new The Hate U Give, but I will say that it read very similarly to me. It's heartbreaking and heartwarming, hurtful and hopeful and I really really enjoyed it. I defy anyone to read this and not fall in love with the spirit that resides in Zayneb.

    Trigger warnings for loss of a parent, illness, terrorist attacks, and racism in the form of both subtle and outright comments.

  • Saajid Hosein

    woo child, the quality.

  • S.K. K. Ali

    Friends & fellow readers: I have finished writing the book. It is a book full of pain, love, anger, love, joy, and soul -- so much of it being the stuff we Muslims hold inside.

    It is hard to share such a book with the world. You wonder if it will be "too much" or whether people will connect and understand.

    But then you release the book because you've held on to the hurt for too long. And because you believe there's more love in the world than hate, more hope than fear.

    Now, please have some

    Friends & fellow readers: I have finished writing the book. It is a book full of pain, love, anger, love, joy, and soul -- so much of it being the stuff we Muslims hold inside.

    It is hard to share such a book with the world. You wonder if it will be "too much" or whether people will connect and understand.

    But then you release the book because you've held on to the hurt for too long. And because you believe there's more love in the world than hate, more hope than fear.

    Now, please have some knitted hearts... <3

  • Nenia ✨ Queen of Literary Trash, Protector of Out-of-Print Gems, Khaleesi of Bodice Rippers, Mother of Smut, the Unrepentant, Breaker of Convention ✨ Campbell

    I FUCKING NEED THIS <3

    #SorryNotSorry for the language

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