Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian (432 pages)
Like a Love Story has Reza, Art, and Judy Embark on a Courageous Journey to Find Themselves
It’s 1989 and Reza has just moved to New York City from Iran. Not only does Reza feel out of place in a huge new city, but he’s also hiding a secret: Reza is gay. Not only is Reza worried about his family’s reactions but he also worries about the social stigma given the AIDS crisis. (Since very little was known about the disease at this time, gay men, in particular, were the victims of discrimination and violence.) Thankfully, Reza soon meets Judy and Art.
Judy dreams of becoming a fashion designer and lives in awe of her uncle Stephen; Stephen is a gay man diagnosed with AIDS who spends his time working to change the stigma regarding the gay community. Judy quickly begins to fall for Reza and they start dating. The problem? Reza is falling even more quickly for Art, the only openly gay student at their school. With the politics regarding the AIDS crisis and their mutual love for Madonna in the background, these three teens must learn how to love and trust each other.
A Hard-Hitting Story about Trials and Triumphs
What I find most interesting about this novel is the relatability factor even for readers that are of a different age than the characters and that have no real connection to the AIDS crisis. Reading this novel, I found that the emotions conveyed by each character were genuine and relatable even if the circumstances were less so. Both the adults and the teens felt authentic in their thoughts and actions. Nazemian takes readers on a beautifully written journey as these three teens lose others on the way to finding themselves.
The Bottom Line: 4/5 Brookie Stars
I’m always trying to diversify my reads and this novel helped me in a number of ways. First, there are not many YA novels that are set at any point in the past (not that 1989 is that long ago!). But I was interested to read a story about teens in a slightly less contemporary setting. Also, the novel carefully and thoughtfully balances the struggles Reza faces not only as an Iranian immigrant but also as a closeted gay teen. Judy’s uncle Stephen’s role in the ACT UP organization also sheds light on some of the more specific details regarding how the AIDS epidemic impacted individuals. I would highly recommend this novel for anyone looking to see the world through a different perspective but who still wants a story about what’s most important in life: friendship, love, and purpose.
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Rachel Gomes is a 30-something high school English teacher who lives with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband and their son. Rachel is a voracious reader who loves to learn and has her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction. She’s happiest listening to podcasts and talking to friends about the latest news in nerd culture.
Favourite book: Don’t make me choose between A Song of Ice and Fire and Harry Potter
Favourite brunch spot: The Farmer’s Table