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 is an aspiring fashion designer who worships her uncle Stephen, a gay man with AIDS who devotes his time to activism as a member of ACT UP. Judy has never imagined finding romance…until she falls for Reza and they start dating.
Art is Judy’s best friend, their school’s only out and proud teen. He’ll never be who his conservative parents want him to be, so he rebels by documenting the AIDS crisis through his photographs.
As Reza and Art grow closer, Reza struggles to find a way out of his deception that won’t break Judy’s heart–and destroy the most meaningful friendship he’s ever known.
Like a Love Story has been on my TBR for a while now and I had only heard positive reviews prior to picking it up. I actually found myself being very conflicted on this read, and that’s why I decided to write an entire review, because I feel like it would be the best way to properly lay out all my feelings.
TRIGGER WARNINGS: character death, grief, depictions of AIDs, police violence, homophobia, bullying.
“Love might just happen to them, but for us, it’s not as easy. For us, it’s a fight. Maybe someday it won’t be Maybe someday, love will just be… love.”
- Unapologetic and diverse characters. One of our protagonists is Reza, who was born in Iran and is gay; we also have Judy, who’s fat, and Art, who’s also gay. It’s always nice seeing a diverse cast of characters, but when it comes to Art and Judy, I also really liked how they were unapologetic themselves the entire time. Art is out and while that is not an easy path, at all, and he is rejected by his parents and harrassed by his classmates, he continues to strive to be his most authentic self. Judy is also fat, but that is never described as an insecurity for her, and I appreciated that a lot.
- A lot of 80s references. I really like a lot about the 80s and it was nice identifying a lot of references here. Obviously, the main one throughout this book was Madonna, which is understandable, but still, I loved seeing how much her music transforms these characters and their relationships. That’s how I wish more books perceived music and artists: showing how truly life-changing they can be for their fans.
- The discussion of social activism. I finished this book only a couple days into Pride Month and during the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement. And it was really nice reading a book set in the 80s and paralleling the social activism of back then with today. Obviously, these people couldn’t organize themselves in social media, so they actually had to go to reunions; they didn’t have cellphones where anyone could snap a picture, so Art had to be their official camera man. It made me think a lot about how my generation perceives social activism, compared to theirs, and made this a very immersive read.
- Low-key heartbreaking, but also empowering. This book is, on its core, very sad. It talks about the AIDs crisis in America, but I appreciated how the author didn’t limit this discussion to the grief and the loss – while he didn’t sugar coat it, he also made sure to talk about how that was a time for community, for strenght, and for empowerement, and I thought that was a really complete take on the situation.
- It felt *real*. These characters are not perfect, that’s for sure. And yet I did find them weirdly likeable. They make a bunch of mistakes, say a lot of problematic shit, and everything, but at the end of the day, isn’t that life? I don’t expect any of my friends or family members or even people I meet to be perfect and right all the time, so I liked that these characters, albeit unlikeable at times, felt realistic.
“The most important four-letter word in our history will always be LOVE. That’s what we are fighting for. That’s who we are. Love is our legacy.”
- Honestly, it was kinda problematic. This book had a lot of questionable sentences. Like, when Art says that he can use the word ‘bitch’ because he’s a honorary woman, since he’s gay. Like, uhhh, no, that’s not how it works. Or when Judy tells Reza that his country is known for killing gay people, as if she didn’t live in America, that was doing the exact same thing, lol. While I understand this is own-voices and the author could make criticism about his own country (Iran), I wish he didn’t do that in a white-character’s perspective, because it just sounds racist. It also didn’t sit well with me how Art felt the need to push everyone to also reclaim homophobic slurs, without taking into consideration not everyone felt comfortable doing so.
- The love triangle was a lot and unnecessary. I don’t know if it’s because I am seriously fed up with stories where gay guys date girls just so they can meet the actual guy they’ll fal in love with, but I really did not like the love triangle here and I don’t feel like it was necessary, and the story could’ve been pretty much the same without it.
- Pacing and editing. I feel like some chapters could’ve happened earlier than others, and just had some things changed to really help with the pacing, that I felt to be very off. There were moments where a lot was going on, and then others not so much, and we’d be in a certain character’s perspective when I felt like we should’ve seen that scene from the others perspective… It was really weird and I feel like this book could’ve been edited completely different.
“Tell your story until it becomes woven into the fabric of our story. Write about the joys and the pain and every event and every artist who inspires you to dream. Tell your story, because if you don’t, it could be wiped out. No one tells our stories for us.”
Overall, even though this is a book that I felt conflicted by, its’ still one I recommend. I think my generation, especially, takes a lot of things for granted, and that’s probably why we honestly were not educated enough on what the AIDs crisis really was and how deeply and awfuly impacted the LGBT community all around the world.
This book talks a lot about how sharing your story is important, and I loved that the author really did that, and that’s why, regardless of my gripes with it, I still feel like more people should read it.
If you have read Like a Love Story, what are your thoughts on it? Let me know in the comments!