Published by Salaam Reads on April 30, 2019
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley
From William C. Morris Award Finalist S.K. Ali comes an unforgettable romance that is part The Sun Is Also a Star mixed with Anna and the French Kiss, following two Muslim teens who meet during a spring break trip.
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.
Gosh, this was a fun and sweet book! I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating that I am so picky when it comes to contemporary, and even more so when it comes to romance. But this book hit most of the right notes for me. Let us talk about the things I enjoyed!
- Zayneb was strong-willed and smart and funny, but flawed too. In short, she felt like a very genuine character. Adam was at times self-deprecating, but fiercely loyal and loving. He too felt genuine. Both main characters felt well-crafted and thoroughly developed, which in turn made me care a great deal about what happened to them. I was rooting for them both, no matter how the romance turned out.
- Now I need to go to Doha. Like before this book, did I know that I had to plan a trip to Qatar someday? No I did not. Now, I do. It was a phenomenal backdrop for the story, but also it led me down a really great Google rabbit hole in which I discovered that it was absolutely as lovely as my mind had pictured from the book (so extra props to the author for nailing that, too!), and so here we are.
- Both MCs were Muslim! I have to say, I have not encountered this before in a book, which is unfortunate. But now I have, so yay! Honestly, I also have to say that I learned a great deal about Muslim beliefs and customs, too. Just little, endearing things that seem so very special and I am glad to have learned about. There’s other representation too, from Adam’s illness, to the characters’ respective backgrounds.
- Speaking of, the messages against intolerance and hate were outstanding. Zayneb especially encounters so much disdain from both strangers and people she must deal with in everyday life (including, horrifyingly enough, a teacher). And the thing is, it’s portrayed very realistically, which will make you even madder, because no one should have to deal with this. No. One. And Zayneb not taking anyone’s nonsense? That is the best.
- Yes, before you start to get stabby, I thought the romance was very sweet. The characters work so, so well together. They’re both very passionate about the things they care about, but they’re unalike enough to work too.
- Family and friendship are both huge. And okay so Adam and his sister’s relationship is probably my fave, but I loved that family was a huge focus for both characters. And while this is a romance, the friendships are quite strong! No one is like, abandoning their friends because they found someone who gives them the feels, you know? If anything, the friendships strengthen during the book, which is incredibly refreshing.
The only thing that I had some trouble with was how quickly things progressed between Adam and Zayneb. I mean, it had to, considering the story setup, but yeah. I had to suspend some disbelief there, but it was cute enough that I was able to. (Also, by quickly, I don’t mean physically. I just mean… well read the book and you’ll see 😉 )
Bottom Line: This is such a charming story, while still being a really important story. If you are at all a fan of contemporary romances, this is one you won’t want to miss!
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