ARC Review: Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

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Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Pub. date: January 16th, 2018
Publisher: Soho Teen  
Format: E-galley
ISBN: 9781616958473
Source: Edelweiss

Thanks so much to Edelweiss and Soho Teen for providing me this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Trigger Warnings: Anti-Islamic verbal statements and incidents, domestic terrorism, bullying, physical assault, suicide bombing, kissing

Plot: Seventeen-year old Maya Aziz is your not-so-average teenager straddling the line between two worlds; one where she’s expected to be the good Indian daughter to conservative Indian parents, well-mannered, possessing decent culinary skills, and on her way to college to become a lawyer, and the other where she goes to film school in New York City, and maybe kiss this white boy she’s been crushing on for a while now. She’s busy living her life with her best friend Violet, sneaking off to spend time with the crush, and making documentaries, when an act of domestic terrorism results in absolute upheaval in Maya’s life. 

I often hear readers complain about how contemporary fiction can sometimes be too predictable, falling into a few standard tropes with the players dressed in different costumes, lacking imagination and the ability to draw them in. Well, I’m happy to report that isn’t the case with this book. Sure, there’s teens, there’s angst, there’s conflict, a plethora of emotions, but Samira Ahmed has managed to deliver a gorgeous coming-of-age story that doesn’t necessarily cater to the formula. She’s done such a great job combining the fluff, the angst, and serious relevant issues, drawing the reader into what turns out to be a very compelling novel. 

Maya as a protagonist and narrator is such a wonderfully developed character. She has super conservative Indian parents, and Her relationship with them resonates with (I think) a lot of diasporic Indian kids- parents who worked extremely hard and made sacrifices to ensure their kids have good lives, parents who want their kids to have steady and secure futures, who are afraid that their kids not growing up in their homeland means that all their morals and values will be lost, parents who want to keep their only child close by because they’re hesitant of the world they will have to send them into, and parents who rebelled for their own life choices and then turned around and promptly became the same naysayers the previous generations were, because they’re conditioned to react that way to new experiences. All of the best interests at heart but unable to recognize that their children are growing up in an environment so different from their own and navigating their own challenges. These traits can seem like stereotypes of Asian parents, but to me they were written and portrayed from such an honest perspective, and several times I felt such empathy for Maya. My parents don’t share all of those qualities, but they most certainly fall into several of these archetypes. It’s always simultaneously comforting and frustrating to see this represented so accurately, especially in YA fiction- teen me would definitely have benefited from reading books like this one. This again, is not necessarily representative of all Indian parents (we’re not a monolith), so I’m sure these characters arcs will resonate with some and not with others.

Besides her complicated relationship with her family, Maya is an ambitious girl with big passions, which is so great to see. Film-making is clearly not just a hobby, but her passion, and her tenacity is evident by the lengths she’s willing to go to in order to make it happen for her. I’m a big fan of ambitious teens of color who are unapologetic about their passion. They’re unabashedly nerdy about this thing that they love and determined to figure ways to make it happen for them, it’s very affirming.

An integral portion of this book is how it tackled anti-Islamic rhetoric and events, and this is where it shines without turning into just an “issue” book. Throughout the novel are tiny microaggressions interspersed in the narrative (and appropriately challenged), all leading up to the tumultuous event that casts a dark shadow on this small town. A brutally honest portrayal of what it’s like to be a Muslim in America in the aftermath of an incident of domestic terrorism. Maya’s own reactions and experiences, as well as that of her family’s, how it affects their relationship with each other, their choices, their fears, and how they’re viewed in the eyes of their small community- Samira delivers with gut-punching accuracy. This makes it such an important book, not just in terms of representing Indian-American Muslims, but a book that should be read by those outside that community, and give them some food for thought on how they could be complicit in maintaining such a rhetoric and how they can be solid allies. 

As for the romance and the side-characters, these were equally well-done. There’s a bit of a love triangle early in the book that’s resolved quickly, and the romance is pretty cute for the most part(bit of an overkill with the mentions of Phil’s dimple, but hey, that’s an alloromantic thing you can’t avoid I guess). Her friendship with Violet is just awesome (love me a supportive best friend all day everyday). Hina is the aunt that dreams are made of, what an amazingly supportive parental figure and buffer. The dual narrative was fine, I don’t think it did much for the story, but it didn’t get in the way either. 

All in all, an absolutely emotional and gratifying story. Samira’s prose is gorgeous, and Maya’s wit and sarcasm is brilliant and cracked me up throughout the book. Full of nuance, with the ability to kickstart several important conversations among readers, Love, Hate, and Other Filters is a well-rounded and gripping debut. 

P. S. In case you’re looking for some #ownvoices reviews of this book, I’m linking both Fadwa and Maha‘s reviews for further reading. 

 

 

ARC Review: Chainbreaker by Tara Sim

34138282 Chainbreaker (Timekeeper #2) by Tara Sim 

Pub. date: January 2nd, 2018
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Format: E-galley
ISBN: 9781510706194
Source: Edelweiss

Thanks so much to Edelweiss and Sky Pony Press for providing me this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

 

Plot: Danny Hart was hoping to settle into his life, what with his father returning and his relationship with Colton blossoming. But clocks have begun to fall in India yet time hasn’t Stopped, so Danny’s being sent to investigate, along with Daphne Richards, a fellow clock tower apprentice. The two of them travel to British-occupied India, and as their investigation proceeds, realize that occupation might be sparking a lot more than just attacks. Meanwhile, Colton’s having strange dreams, and stumbles upon dark secrets from his past. Will both Danny and Colton survive the dangerous path upon which they’ve been thrust?

Timekeeper had been on my TBR for ages, so when I saw that Chainbreaker was available for immediate download on Edelweiss, I immediately scooped up a copy so that I’d have to read the first book, and I was immediately charmed by these characters. The first book did a great job with the world-building and character development, so I was eager to jump into Chainbreaker right after.

Whoa baby, talk about a gripping story. I absolutely devoured this one. It was really hard to put down and more often than not had me at the edge of my seat. Daphne, as I’d predicted for myself in book one, is absolutely one of my favorite characters. I’m always rooting for characters who are hardcore on the outside and soft on the inside. T

This book opens with a heart-breaking scene with Daphne and her mum, who following a scary breakdown, lives in an asylum (St. Agnes’ Home for Women). Their relationship (or lack thereof) has a marked effect on Daphne. The scandal of her white English mum marrying her dad, the son of an English officer and an Indian woman, still weighs on their family. So, when Daphne is instructed to go to India with Danny to investigate the clock attacks there, she proceeds with a lot of hesitation. Tara does a really great job exploring Daphne’s feelings as a biracial woman, especially considering the time period chosen for the book. Trying to feel some connection to a land that is part of her ancestry, but viewed with disdain by the locals as one who belongs with the English, Tara captures this complicated position really well, once again demonstrating her character development skills. 

Of course, who can forget our boys Danny and Colton? Danny, who puts his heart before everything else, and Colton, who puts Danny before everything else. The boys go through hell in this book, and learning more about Colton’s past was intriguing, and I can’t wait to see how things get tied up for these two in book three. 

Overall, I thought Tara once again did a great job modifying historical events to fit the narrative and the existent world she’d created in Timekeeper very well. I especially appreciated the author’s note at the end, which did a great job outlining historical events as we know it, and how they’d been incorporated in the story. I really liked that it was a description of India that felt real and not fetishized, and the introduction of Meena and Akash lent itself well with no hint of white savior complexes from our English characters (or if there were any, were suitably challenged), for which I was immensely grateful. It can be a delicate position to talk about colonizers vs. the colonized, and Tara has done a fantastic job addressing that at various points in the story. It is a testament to her skills as a writer. 

There were some things I absolutely did not see coming, especially towards the end. Danny, Daphne, and Colton are racing against time and each other while it seems like everything around them is unraveling, keeping me at the edge of my seat at a godforsaken hour of the night because I just couldn’t put it down without finding out where we were going to be left at the end of this book. Also, I’d like to point out that Tara is evil for messing with my feelings, and that’s all I can say without giving anything away. Chainbreaker was an excellent follow-up to Timekeeper, Tara Sim continues to be a champion storyteller and world-builder, and I can’t wait to see what happens in book three.

Review: When The Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

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When The Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

Pub. date: October 4th, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Dunne
Format: Digital
ISBN: 9781250058669
Source: Chicago Public Library via Overdrive
Purchase links: Amazon| Barnes & Noble| Indiebound|Book Depository

 

 

Miel is the girl that emerged from a water tower one night when she was little, and Sam is the boy who paints paper moons and hangs them up on trees. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and not much is known about either her past or Sam’s. Their friendship finds common ground in their weirdness and secrets, and in their teens, blossoms into a lot more. The only people that the townsfolk choose to keep even further distance from tare he Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. The sisters believe that the scent of the roses growing from Miel’s wrist could make anyone fall in love and they are willing  to spills the secrets they have on Miel and Sam in order to obtain them. 

This book made me realize I truly do love magical realism. I enjoy the flowery prose, characters with mysterious backgrounds that only come forth as you progress through the book, and the mystical components, especially in book filled with such multicultural elements. Miel is Latina, Sam is Pakistani-American, the book references brujeria and bacha posh, and has a central trans character whose exploration of sexual and gender identity is unlike any I’ve seen in a YA book. 

I read the author’s debut novel The Weight In Feathers sometime before this book came out and instantly fell in love with her prose. Her writing is gorgeous. For example:

They would remember only that Miel and Sam had been called Honey and Moon, a girl and boy woven into the folklore of this place.

and

She was a place whose darkness held not fear, but the promise of stars.

*Cue swooning*

I mean, her writing allows the reader’s imagination to explode. It is truly a sensory experience, with descriptions of smells, tastes, and visuals. Whether it’s a field of glass pumpkins, or the smells of the spices used in Miel’s house, or the sound of the river. The love between Miel and Sam literally feels like a slow burn of heightened teenage emotions. 

The book is character-driven over plot, and McLemore gives her characters such nuance. Sam coming into his identity doesn’t necessarily happen throughout the book, but the story is deftly built up to that moment. It is far from a perfect moment, and McLemore’s storytelling prowess in exploring the messiness of teenage emotions shines through. The same can be said for Miel exploring her identity and finding out about her past and how she ended up in this town. The author lends complexity to the Bonner sisters as well, they aren’t your straight up villainous cliquey white sisters. Layers, layers everywhere. 

I’ve said this about other books and I’ll say it again: books like this one are the reason there’s such a push for diversity in publishing. Teenagers exploring their sexual and gender identities on the page is so crucial. Teens having sex and not being punished for it is almost revolutionary. Queer teens of color reconciling their identity with their cultural backgrounds is so needed. Also important, queer kids having stories with happy endings. I guarantee you there are Pakistani-American trans kids out there who will benefit from seeing a character looking like them and sharing their cultural identity undergoing similar struggles. 

This book is evidently a deeply personal one for McLemore, whose husband is trans. It is clear that an immense amount of research has gone into the writing of this book, both for the trans rep and the cultural practices described, for which I’m truly grateful. Do not miss reading the author’s note. With vivid prose and an ethereal narrative, McLemore has my heart once and for all.