Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali (335 pages)
Love From A to Z Is A Love Story That Is a Marvel And An Oddity
Zayneb is a high school senior, and the only Muslim in her social science class. Her teacher has been intent on painting a bad picture about Muslims for a long time. Unable to keep her cool, Zayneb is suspended for confronting him about his blatant Islamophobia. Her parents send her to Qatar to visit her aunt during spring break, in hopes that she can find a tamer version of herself while away. A version that doesn’t speak out. A version that isn’t angry.
Adam is on his way back home to Qatar from London after being away at university. He knows his recent diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis is news he will have to break to his family, but is unsure how his grieving father will handle it. Meeting Zayneb on his journey is not something he was anticipating, and neither was she. Seemingly from two different worlds, their encounter is quite an oddity. Or is it, perhaps a marvel?
A Strong Message About The Impact Of Prejudice, Hardship And Love in the Lives of Young Muslims
S.K Ali does an incredibly thorough job at depicting the lives of modern, contemporary Muslims. She strikes a balance at describing everything from the normalcy of their lives as average teens, to the daily hurdles they have to face. Islamophobia is a prominent theme throughout, and Ali does not shy away from painting an accurate picture of how it can manifest itself: sometimes it is big acts of violence, other times it’s smaller, microaggressions that cause just as much harm.
While Ali does tackle additional heavy topics (chronic illness, death of a parent), this novel is, at its heart, a love story. It isn’t just about romantic love, but about love between family members and within the family we choose.. It also has to be one of the sweetest meet-cutes out there. Zayneb and Adam’s love is based on mutual respect and understanding. The author gives them distinct voices and taps well into the opposites attract trope. Zayneb is strong willed and cannot be quiet in the face of adversity and injustice. Adam is an introspective, gentle soul who will always prioritize his family and their happiness. He is the yin to her yang.
The Bottom Line: 4.5/5 Brookie Star
This book has been described as an “unapologetically Muslim novel”, and I am all for it. I enjoyed it primarily because of its accurate Muslim representation. It is a book I never knew I needed to read until I did, and it was very refreshing at that. The love story is adorable and has everything you want in a YA love story: all the warm and fuzzy feelings with a little necessary inner turmoil from the teenagers. It is also the perfect novel to dissect at a book club. This book will leave you with feelings of hope for a better tomorrow.
Maiya Alismaili is a 34 year old bookacholic who currently resides in Ottawa. With a background in Human Resources and Psychology, you will often find her people watching. When she doesn’t have her nose in a book, she will likely be exploring the town for new bookstores, rewatching Gilmore Girls, or cleaning to 80s music.
Favorite Book: A Fine Balance By Rohinton Mistry
Favorite Brunch Spot: Cafe Cristal