Rummanah Aasi
Description: 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.

Review: I really enjoyed Ali's debut novel, Saints and Misfits, and was really looking to reading her contemporary romance Love from A to Z. Love from A to Z has all of the traits of what I love in a great contemporary romance: enjoyable characters, a coming of age story where the characters find themselves, a great setting, and of course romance. What elevates Love from A to Z for me personally is that it also unabashedly addresses Muslim identity and features two Muslim teens who fall in love. This is a love story which I found myself quite nicely represented.
   Zayneb Malik is a high school senior, hijabi though not extremely religious, who has high ambitions of attending the University of Chicago. When she gets suspended over an incident with an Islamophobic teacher, she starts her spring break early, leaving her town in Indiana to visit her aunt in Doha, Qatar. Her trip is an odd combination of relaxation while also giving her the chance to simmer her emotions down as Zayneb is very hot headed.
   Also on the way to Doha, via London, is Adam Chen, returning to his dad and sister. He stopped attending his college classes two months earlier after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, the same illness his mother had, and instead he has been making various things. Interestingly, Adam and his remaining family converted to Islam when he was eleven years old or so. As Adam and Zayneb spend time together, their feelings for one another intensify.
  I love how the story is told in alternating viewpoints through the characters' journal entries, each divided into sections of Marvels and Oddities (the good and the bad). The journal entries allows the reader to get a closer look at Zayneb and Adam's emotions and thoughts. Ali does a great job in explaining how relationships work in an Islamic context as the two don't indulge in their physical desire, which is not easy. Muslim identity and culture are authentically and unapologetically infused throughout without overexplanation but are still accessible for a wide audience. Cultural appropriation, racism, the effects of war, and the impact of everyday Islamophobia are all explored with nuance. The only thing I wanted more from this book is the exploration of Zayneb's Islamophobic teacher. I also loved the inclusion of family, particularly that of Aunt Nandy who is not Muslim and Adam's kid sister. Love from A to Z is a great, diverse contemporary romance read.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, Islamophobic and racist comments. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

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1 Response
  1. This sounds like it's got a lot of good stuff going on in it.

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