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
As someone who said I’d like to first prioritize 2018 books, I’ve been reading A LOT of new releases. Love From A to Z has gotten a lot of positive reviews and this cover is stunning, which were literally the reasons as to why I picked it up.
For some reason, though, I thought this book was going to be set one day at an airport, but it’s not like that at all. A part of me is relieved, because I never have the best of luck with books set in 24 hours, but I think it would be interesting to see the relationship between them develop in a shorter spam of time.
Anyway! I listened to the audiobook for it on Scribd and loved the narrators a lot.
TW: islamophobia, discussions on war victims, chronic ilness
- It’s set in Doha, Qatar. I always love whenever I can read books set in different countries. (
Granted, every book I read is set in a different country, since I’m Brazilian, but I mean outside of the US). Even though I’ve never been to Doha, I loved reading about the setting, with the contrast between traditional, historical places and really modern buildings, as well as just the way the city is constantly alive, even late at night. The author build up the perfect atmosphere and I had a great time with it.
- The marvel & oddity journal entries. I’m always happy whenever books can mix different medias. Both characters write in a marvel and oddity journal, where they track both the positives and the negatives of their day. I appreciated a lot how this story was filled with small coincidences as well and the journal entries added a new and personal layer to the book I enjoyed a lot.
- How it discusses islamophobia. The book kicks off with Zayneb getting suspended for allegedly disrespecting her islamophobe teacher. And though that is a very prevalent discussion until the end of the book, there are several other instances where Zayneb faces hatred for no other reason than being a Muslim. It happens in the airplane, then at the pool where she likes to go to, even amongst friends of her family. As someone who doesn’t know a ton of Muslims and has not read about many either, it was a really significant discussion and definitely made me feel angry, sad and frustrated for the characters.
- Really diverse – mixed – characters! I love the fact that both of our protagonists are mixed race. Adam is half Finnish, half Chinese and Zayneb is half Pakistani, half Indian. Plus, Adam is Canadian, while Zayneb is American. It made me really happy to see mixed characters, because that was one of the few elements of this book I was able to identify myself with.
- A+ family relationships. Both of our protagonists have really great and realistic relationships with their parents. Adam’s mom passed away and because of that, he grew closer to his father and younger sister. It was also a scene between him and his dad that made me shed a couple tears. Even though Zayneb is not as close to her siblings as Adam is, it’s clear that she cares a lot about her family and throughout the book, they grow to understand more of each other, which is beautiful to see.
- Zayneb’s character, sometimes. Zayneb was written as this angry, almost impulsive girl, which I understand. But I feel like hardly ever this was really challenged, even when she hurt people she loves. I’m not saying Zayneb should change her personality and especially the way she deals with islamophobes, because I completely support her behavior in this instances, but there are more than a couple times where she angrily snaps at a friend or family member when she didn’t have to, and it bothered me a lot that the book hardly ever acknowledged that. Also, there was this one scene where the three Emmas are talking to her about how they don’t believe in fighting violence with more violence, and Zayneb just calls them ignorants for not agreeing with her. Like, not sharing your opinion does not make other people ignorants because your opinion is not the only right one.
- The three Emmas. And since we’re on the topic of the three Emmas, I really do not understand the writer choice of creating three characters that looked like one, almost like Cerberus, the dog with three heads. It was impossible telling the three Emmas apart, because they were always together, almost always shared the same opinions and, therefore, were all extremely underdeveloped. I think it would’ve worked a lot better to write one side character with complexed, well-thought personality than three mediocre ones.
Overall, this is still a book I recommend and would like to see more people reading. S.K Ali brought a very unique perspective when following these characters. There are a lot of really important topics being discussed here that we need to put on the spotlight more often on YA.
Even though I had some problems with it, I still really enjoyed the characters and the romance was also adorable AF.