Like a Love Story

Like a Love Story

It's 1989 in New York City, and for three teens, the world is changing.Reza is an Iranian boy who has just moved to the city with his mother to live with his stepfather and stepbrother. He's terrified that someone will guess the truth he can barely acknowledge about himself. Reza knows he's gay, but all he knows of gay life are the media's images of men dying of AIDS.Judy...

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Title:Like a Love Story
Author:Abdi Nazemian
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Like a Love Story Reviews

  • Hussein Baher

    *clears voice*

    *taps mic*

    AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

    I'll probably write a coherent review later on... Maybe not.

    But until then GO READ THIS.

    Gtg cry in a corner.

  • Chaima ✨ شيماء

    is the kind of book I wish I read as a teen when I was still navigating the pathways of my sexuality and needed the kindness of a friend who sits with you in comfort by the fire and can’t change what’s wrong but reminds you that you're not alone.

    When I finished this book, I felt somehow at once endlessly heavy and weightless. My chest still trills with something I cannot quite name. Recognition, and sorrow, and hope all at once. The whole world still feels shaped around this s

    is the kind of book I wish I read as a teen when I was still navigating the pathways of my sexuality and needed the kindness of a friend who sits with you in comfort by the fire and can’t change what’s wrong but reminds you that you're not alone.

    When I finished this book, I felt somehow at once endlessly heavy and weightless. My chest still trills with something I cannot quite name. Recognition, and sorrow, and hope all at once. The whole world still feels shaped around this story, a warm welcoming place ready to receive me, whenever I longed to open the book and run my fingers under the words, feeling for the hope I will always find sheltered there.

    It’s 1989, at the height of the AIDS crisis, and Reza is an Iranian closeted teen who’s moved to New York from Toronto “by way of Tehran,” and is living with his mother and new stepfather and stepbrother.

    Reza did not want to die of AIDS—the desire to not die has never been so searing. Dark images of men pierced by the illness tore at him, and every nightmare that shook him carried the same subliminal four-letter warning. The fear sloshed over Reza, each wave colder than the last, and he might have floated on, believing those dull miseries were all there was, if he hadn’t met Art and Judy and a small bird of hope took flight. His attraction to Art—this dreamer who taught him to hope for a different life—made Reza’s legs tense to flee, to scramble back to the safety of denial. Reza tries to cut his desires from him by dating Judy, and his life becomes a wobbling cup of lies that threatens each moment to spill. But with the help of Stephen (Judy’s uncle who is a gay activist and has AIDS, and in whose mind, ugly things are made beautiful), the unaccustomed feeling of community, and yes, even Madonna, Reza’s courage, once shriveled by fear, rises in his chest.

    Reza only hopes that, in his blundering, he hadn’t severed ties that might otherwise have been stimulated to warmth and affection again, and that his friendship with Judy would beat with a new rhythm.

    The story felt like a breath that had been inhaled into darkness, only to be exhaled again as song. Simple, unadorned,

    . There are countless avenues to tears in this book, and I strongly doubt many readers—as cynical and unyielding as they may be—will get through it dry-eyed themselves.

    Among all the things that 

     seeks and succeeds to be, it's a love letter to queerness, to activism, to self-expression, to the people who love despite scorn and condemnation and the war they waged to simply make lives with the people they loved, and yes, to Madonna.

    rings—harsh, accusing, vibrant—through every page, and it's clear that the author is making a point about the way history can steamroll over anyone who falls outside the norm. “

    ,” writes Nazemian, “

    The novel is grounded in the realities of daily life in the time period, where people—women, people of color and queer people—paid the heavy toll for the scathing indifference of governments and the pitiless profiteering of pharmaceutical companies. This devastation signals a time capsule, except that things have changed so little for marginalized communities that it's hard to consign even the most hyperbolic discrimination to the past.

    A bright knife of grief plunges through my heart at the thought of the trials and tribulations our communities have faced and are still facing. And, reading this book then spending more time researching the historical figures mentioned, it seemed to me almost impossible that these people, so unspeakably brave, could have lived at all with such frail, flimsy stuff as skin keeping blood and breath safe inside their bodies—and not something else, something

    . Our history will always carry a shard of sorrow within it, but to borrow Stephen's words, “

    .”

    The novel’s strength, though, is in the voices Nazemian gives his characters. His characters are so achingly human; they have the virtues of their flaws, and the flaws of their virtues, and their realistic relationships accurately depicts current issues of gender, race, and class. The first-person narration alternates between Reza, Art and Judy, occasionally interrupted by hearty and thought-provoking passages from “

    ” Stephen made for Art that range from advice about high school to Madonna.

    The characters' journeys are resonant—and their feelings reached me in waves. It was almost like being stripped to my skin, and I saw myself in their eyes.

    was all heat and volatility, he was passion, but not violence. There were so many wants inside him that he doubted there was room for blood in his body. His character radiates such a stark and roaring vitality that could lift the darkness almost palpably from the hearts of people around him. But in the furnace of Art's grief, anger kindled. The unfairness of what his community is continuously made to endure made him want to burn and shrill and rage if it’ll make the world take note. And it's that boundless passion—which has been nurtured by Stephen whom Art had always seen as a father figure—that had woken Reza to the understanding that for all his life he had been hollow. It's Art who taught Reza that it’s okay to want

    —as terrifying as “more” may be.

    ’s character sung with its own vibration. She shone with good nature and a stunning liveliness. Her mind is like a spike-toothed eel, and I admired how she gradually settles into herself, growing untouched by the words people with ill hearts kept ready on their tongues, a way to show their judgment of the shape of her body. Judy also treats her friends to the full truth of her kindness. She and Art have been friends for such long stretches of their lives; they grew up in one another’s pockets. Though, truthfully, I couldn’t help but react with a sort of angry bewilderment to the way Judy handled Reza’s coming out. However much I sympathized with her, I couldn’t find within me the faintest flicker of blame towards Reza. Fear and denial do strange things, and for most of us, coming out is a weight laid heavily across our shoulders like an iron yoke.

    ’s character struck a deep chord within me. It hit me, with a pang of familiarity, how worn thin Reza was with fear. How his heart failed a little at the thought of people finding out the truth about him. How he chose to remain diffident and nearly invisible, and how at the root of all his reasons was

    —frantic, sharp, cracking like a blow. It’s what snagged at me the most. It’s the nameless horror of the consequences of being yourself. Because sometimes, it seems that there is just no way to tell people closed to us the truth and make them

    it, that hearts that loved boys or girls or everyone otherwise both or in-between are no more different than any other heart.

    also includes a romance, and I surprisingly relished how that element feels almost secondary, despite being necessary for the plot. It's a welcome subversive take on the coming-of-age romance. You meet people, and if you’re lucky enough, they sink in your chest like stones into water, spreading sand as ripples in a pond. They may stay in your life forever, or you will part, once, or twice, and then be divided anew, whether by choice or by fate. Life is nothing but achingly bittersweet. And so was

    ’s ending.

    Unique, moving, and filled with flawed and yet real characters, this novel is a must for any library serving teens.

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  • Dominic

    Truly one of the best books I've read all year,

    has the potential for wide appeal, but perhaps its greatest strength is how unflinchingly queer it is. Abdi Nazemian writes a book that could be (and honestly should be) read by everyone, but it is above all a love letter to queer youth and anyone who ever was a queer youth.

    It's a history lesson about what it was like to be queer in the late 80s and early 90s, the way AIDS put a dark fearful cloud on so many human beings as they w

    Truly one of the best books I've read all year,

    has the potential for wide appeal, but perhaps its greatest strength is how unflinchingly queer it is. Abdi Nazemian writes a book that could be (and honestly should be) read by everyone, but it is above all a love letter to queer youth and anyone who ever was a queer youth.

    It's a history lesson about what it was like to be queer in the late 80s and early 90s, the way AIDS put a dark fearful cloud on so many human beings as they were coming-of-age. But while well-researched, this is fiction and it has a lovely fairy tale vibe without every losing any gritty human emotion.

    Here's a passage I adore: "Us. All of us. What we did. Our history. Who we are. They won't teach it in schools. They don't want us to have a history. They don't see us. They don't know we are another country, with invisible borders, that we are a people. You have to make them see. You have to remember it. And to share it. Please. Time passes, and people forget. Don't let them."

    Music (particularly Madonna) plays a huge role in the novel, and the scene when the characters go to a Madonna concert is one of the greatest scenes in the book, IMO. It actually moved me to tears as I thought about the first Tori Amos concerts I went to and how I felt so SEEN and LOVED during those shows. You can just tell that Nazemian has truly *lived* so many of the things of this book because of its honesty, and it's clear that this book is a labor of love.

    If I could control things, I would love to see this book reach the kind of readership

    has found. Queer youth today face fewer challenges than Art and Reza face in the book, when falling in love with someone seemed, to many, to equal disease and death, (and certainly fewer than Stephen and Jimmy), but there is still such a long way to go. Too many queer youth still struggle with crippling depression and hurt themselves because they don't know how to accept themselves or belong to communities that don't see them. Many still equate being queer with loneliness and shame and even death. And so I'm so glad for all the love and hope in this novel, one that never lets go of the beauty and necessity of resistance.

    This is the best book for Pride Month that I could have possibly asked for (and maybe one of the best YA novels I've ever read for all the love it exudes). I don't often buy multiple copies for my classroom, but I will be buying more of this one. I want to share this with everyone.

    Let me end this short review (which falls far short of what this book means to me) with this incredible passage that needs to be sent out to every LGBTQ+ kid everywhere:

  • Larry H

    Wow, this book hit very close to home for me.

    It's 1989 in New York City. Reza has just moved with his mother to live with his wealthy new stepfather and stepbrother, and attend his final year of high school. He knows he likes boys but all he sees in the media are images of people dying of AIDS, so he knows he has to keep his true self hidden.

    Judy has always been her own person, an aspiring fashion designer with a bold sense of style. She spends all of her spare time with her best friend, Art, an

    Wow, this book hit very close to home for me.

    It's 1989 in New York City. Reza has just moved with his mother to live with his wealthy new stepfather and stepbrother, and attend his final year of high school. He knows he likes boys but all he sees in the media are images of people dying of AIDS, so he knows he has to keep his true self hidden.

    Judy has always been her own person, an aspiring fashion designer with a bold sense of style. She spends all of her spare time with her best friend, Art, and her uncle, Stephen, who is dying of AIDS and is a prominent member of ACT UP. The one thing Judy wants to find is love, but she doubts she'll ever find anyone to love her for who she is.

    Art is out and proud, a talented photographer who tries to put the constant bullying of his peers and the disdain of his parents behind him. He documents the work of the ACT UP activists through his photographs. Stephen is his role model, and he spends so much time learning from him. Art wants to find someone to love him, but love and sex in the midst of so much uncertainty around AIDS frightens him.

    Reza and Judy start dating, and Art feels like a third wheel. But Art and Reza are drawn to each other. Reza tries desperately to fight his attraction to Art, because he doesn't want to disappoint his mother and he worries that acknowledging his sexuality will doom him to a death sentence of AIDS. Art wants Reza, but knows that Judy is happy with him, and he doesn't want to betray his one true friend.

    "There may be no harder place to be queer than high school, a place of bullies and slurs, a place steeped in rituals of heterosexuality. Who's dating who? Who kissed who? Who will be homecoming king and queen? Who will be your prom date? And you have to play along, because if you don't, your difference has a spotlight on it."

    Abdi Nazemian's incredibly moving, heartfelt

    so accurately captures what it was like to come to terms with your sexuality during the early days of the AIDS crisis. You were tremendously fearful of even kissing someone, because you worked out elaborate circumstances in your head by which you could contract the disease. And if you got AIDS, who would love you? Your family would abandon you, the government would gouge you on the price of drugs, and you would be a pariah? So why not hide your true self instead, pretend to be "normal"?

    This is a book about friendship, family, fear, acceptance, and finding love. It's a story about finding the courage to be yourself even in a world full of fear, and finding your people, who will love you and accept you no matter what. It's also a beautiful love letter of sorts to those who came before us, who loved fearlessly and joyfully, who finally lived the lives they dreamed of, without worrying what people thought of them, and it's a tribute to all of the people who died of AIDS and lost loved ones and lived in courage rather than fear.

    I had been waiting for this book to be released and I jumped on it the day it was published. I loved every single minute of

    . It's gorgeous and funny and sad and beautifully written, and all too many times I found myself nodding, recognizing myself in certain situations. Nazemian put every ounce of his heart into this story and it shows, and I'm definitely going to go back and read his earlier books, because I love the way he writes.

    I love books that effectively capture a specific time and place, and

    did that. It is an important, hopeful book that deserves every accolade it receives.

    See all of my reviews at

    .

    Check out my list of the best books I read in 2018 at

    .

    You can follow me on Instagram at

  • Thomas

    Could YA books with queer characters of color be any more iconic? I loved

    and I'm so happy it exists, alongside books like Benjamin Alire Saenz's

    and Kelly Loy Gilbert's

    and more. What sets this novel apart from other similarly fantastic YA reads is its masterful portrayal of the 1980s AIDS epidemic and the activism of that era.

    The novel follows Reza, a closeted Iranian teen, Art, the out and proud guy Reza falls for, and Judy, Art's b

    Could YA books with queer characters of color be any more iconic? I loved

    and I'm so happy it exists, alongside books like Benjamin Alire Saenz's

    and Kelly Loy Gilbert's

    and more. What sets this novel apart from other similarly fantastic YA reads is its masterful portrayal of the 1980s AIDS epidemic and the activism of that era.

    The novel follows Reza, a closeted Iranian teen, Art, the out and proud guy Reza falls for, and Judy, Art's best friend who excels at fashion design. Toward the beginning of the book, Reza dates Judy to conceal his sexuality. When this arrangement unravels the three must deal with the fallout, of Reza's sexuality, of Art and Judy's friendship, and more.

    Abdi Nazemian tackles so much in

    and grounds it all in history so well. The fear Reza experiences about contracting AIDS and dying, Art and Judy's uncle Stephen's activism with ACT UP, the characters' love for Madonna - Nazemian shows how the historical oppression of queer people affects his characters in intimate and powerful ways. He honors so many complex, important topics like coming out as a person of color, what happens when a friend betrays you, death and grief, and more. He writes in a palatable, straightforward way that still gives space for all the feelings that come with loss and love.

    The focus on love is what made this book shine the most. Until the last 80 or so pages I considered giving it four stars, as Art and Reza's relationship gave me insta-love vibes and did not feel as developed or compelling compared to the romances in

    and

    . But, the last 80 or so pages tied all of the novel's threads together to reveal its beautiful center: love of art, love of activism, love of love. I got pretty emotional reading Nazemian's author's note and felt so inspired by and happy for him, how he took his experience as a queer youth of color and transformed it into such amazing art. I know that we have a lot more to fight for to advance equality and justice for the LGBTIA+ community. And, right now, I'm giving my queer heart a little break, a little moment, so it can sing a happy song for this book's existence and all the love it entails.

  • Madalyn (Novel Ink)

    wowowowow, this is one of those stories that hollows you out completely and then makes you whole again. it’s a love letter to the queer community, and to past queer activists who have paved the way for all of us to live better lives today. I can’t think of a better read heading into pride month. ✨

  • R.K. Gold

    So close to five but just couldn’t get there:

    Super developed character:

    Stephen: mentor character and activist who showed the gravity of any situation while offering comic relief.

    Reza: one of the 3 protagonists and POVs. Deals with being an immigrant, a POC, homosexual, and comes from a culture that violently opposes who he is (so a lot of internal conflict for a soft spoken character who wants to please his family above all else).

    Art: the extrovert gay character who uses confidence to mask his

    So close to five but just couldn’t get there:

    Super developed character:

    Stephen: mentor character and activist who showed the gravity of any situation while offering comic relief.

    Reza: one of the 3 protagonists and POVs. Deals with being an immigrant, a POC, homosexual, and comes from a culture that violently opposes who he is (so a lot of internal conflict for a soft spoken character who wants to please his family above all else).

    Art: the extrovert gay character who uses confidence to mask his fear because the alternative is unthinkable. This leads him to moments of being a little hot headed but never without reason.

    Judy: the straight white middle class ally and best friend dealing with her own internal struggles. Niece of Stephen who teaches her the uphill battle his community faces.

    There are side characters like Reza’s mom, sister, step brother and step father. All of whom have moments of sympathy—well kinda. There are also the families of the other protagonists and various students and protestors who served a specific purpose and nothing beyond that.

    Plot: 3 high school seniors from different backgrounds living in NYC interact in a love triangle that tests their friendship during the height of the AIDS epidemic.

    It’s a compelling coming of age tale that involves three teenagers finding strength through Madonna’s music to freely express who they are during a time where that was potentially fatal.

    Writing style: captured unique voices for each character, and created some very emotional dialogue. Though the stakes were high there wasn’t much tension throughout the text. Actions and reactions but no buffer between where you believe things might go another way. It’s not a flaw, just a style that kept the focus more on the internal struggles of the 3 main characters and not the external struggles of the world.

  • Hollis

    LIKE A LOVE STORY is a little like a love story, really. But more in the sense of love for oneself, one's body, and one's community. I think it did a really good job of that, particularly when propped up against the setting, but when it comes to the love story, the romance, within the book.. it kinda failed. And by kinda I mean really.

    Nazemian's story takes place on the cusp of the nineties, in 1989, and is set against the AIDS crisis. Not as a backdrop but as a very real threat and very present

    LIKE A LOVE STORY is a little like a love story, really. But more in the sense of love for oneself, one's body, and one's community. I think it did a really good job of that, particularly when propped up against the setting, but when it comes to the love story, the romance, within the book.. it kinda failed. And by kinda I mean really.

    Nazemian's story takes place on the cusp of the nineties, in 1989, and is set against the AIDS crisis. Not as a backdrop but as a very real threat and very present player for our three protagonists. Art is out and proud and angry. His best friend, Judy, has an uncle dying of AIDS. And the new kid, originally from Iran, is Reza; someone both friends fall for but who, despite initially dating Judy, is closeted.

    I knew this wouldn't be an easy story but I knew it would be an important one. It was a frightening time and is made even more terrifying when held up against the current social and political climate. Addressing the bigotry and the homophobia was all very visceral and awful but well done. I felt like I was living it. Where the fear of touch, of being touched, infected every interaction. Where not subscribing to white, heteronormative, ideals made you worthy of hate or shunning. Where it was acceptable to wish your son dead just for being queer. Where hate fuelled both sides of the equation; one side for being ushered into an early grave just for being who they were, and the other for not understanding or not accepting people different from themselves.

    What I believe failed this story was the characters.

    The romance is fast tracked as is fairly typical -- though the fact that these two besties go from zero to eleven within half a page over the new kid is unlikely as it is; but for it to be turned into a triangle, infusing unnecessary drama into the mix, just becomes tedious -- and ultimately, it's the leads that do a disservice to the goings on around them. Or, rather, I feel they overshadowed the rest with their nonsense. I outright disliked two of the POVs (one more strongly than the other) but overall it was their behaviours, too, that I just couldn't stand.

    .

    I'm heartbroken that this didn't work but I do think, if the synopsis draws you in, you should still pick it up. LIKE A LOVE STORY is a book that features a four star topic but is, unfortunately, saddled with one star protagonists.

    ** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

    ---

    This review can also be found at

    .

  • Mads

    This book pissed me off in so many ways. The story itself could've been powerful as it takes place in the 1980s during the AIDS crisis. But the characters ruined it for me. They're extremely flawed and not in the good way where they'll get character development later. They're flawed in the "I'm an asshole" way.

    There's a scene where Saadi, Reza's homophobic brother who fat shames Judy and treats her like shit, hits on her. He tells her he doesn't understand why guys like

    This book pissed me off in so many ways. The story itself could've been powerful as it takes place in the 1980s during the AIDS crisis. But the characters ruined it for me. They're extremely flawed and not in the good way where they'll get character development later. They're flawed in the "I'm an asshole" way.

    There's a scene where Saadi, Reza's homophobic brother who fat shames Judy and treats her like shit, hits on her. He tells her he doesn't understand why guys like skinny girls and that chubby girls look much better anyway. Suddenly, Judy is confident about her body because some asshole guy told her what he thinks women should look like. She's instantly turned on, and proceeds to jack him off. Like wtf? Judy also body shames and hates on other girls.

    Then later in the story, it asks us to feel bad for Saadi because his mother left him. I was so mad at this. Your past is no excuse for your current behaviors. It was a lazy and ridiculous attempt at character development.

    Constantly pressuring Reza to have sex with him, despite Reza's obvious fear and discomfort.

    Bitch?? Reza doesn’t owe you shit, leave him alone.

    Tbh none that I can think of. Reza was okay. His relationship with Art honestly sucked tho. They had no buildup.

    And maybe I'm being picky but it kept using the word “girlfriends” when describing two girls who are friends. Yet they used boyfriends when describing two guys who are dating. That was bothered me because lesbian and bisexual women exist. There are so many other instances of this book completely disregarding lesbian and bisexual women though so I'm not surprised.

    I get what this book was trying to accomplish and it achieved some great quotes. But that's not enough for me to overlook the sexism and lesbophobia. And unlikeable characters will always make me mark a book down.

  • Elise (TheBookishActress)

    this looks great!

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