Genre: Contemporary Romance Age Range: YA Star Rating: 5 stars Series: standalone CW: Islamophobia, Chronic Illness
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.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
Romantic contemporary could not be further from my usual cup of tea. However, a friend has been constantly recommending it for weeks, so I picked up a copy. I’m trying to read more widely, so why not try a romance?
This is not at all what I was expecting from a contemporary romance. Yes, they’re such a cute couple with real chemistry. They have a relationship problem after things are seeming to go well, which they then sit and reflect on while realising just how love they were.
However, this book is not only written in such a down-to-earth way about the struggles of life – the plot going far beyond just two characters falling in love – but it also centres faith and relationships. Faith touches every aspect of their lives. It’s central and foundational to how they act and interact .
I absolutely adored the fact that faith and relationships were entwined. Zayneb and Adam both have very firm, very clear boundaries for the relationship, how it can progress and where it can go, that comes from their faith identity as committed Muslims and how they practice.
Their faith is not a problem, not a barrier to their relationship – which I have seen a few times (for romances with other faiths). It’s two people saying this is what I believe is a healthy, respectful way to approach a relationship for it to be right by their beliefs. There is an absolutely gorgeous line about it that just resonated with me.
Make sure that you make the beginning of whatever you begin beautiful.
My own faith is different (I’m Christian), but nearly every one Adam and Zayneb’s boundaries are the ones I have for relationships because of my faith. And I often feel like media portrays those boundaries as unrealistic or old fashioned – which is half the reason why I don’t pick up romances, why I rarely watch romantic films. I can’t see that such a core belief of mine about relationships portrayed positively.
But this did. This made me feel seen and normal and perfectly fine for having such strict, unchangeable boundaries because of my faith. It’s the first time I’ve seen it in done in a non-preachy/patronising way and it’s half the reason I was in tears at so many points in this book.
This book also includes really nuanced discussions about prejudice and Islamophobia and chronic illness and drone warfare. It’s not my place to talk about these – there are amazing ownvoices reviews on this book on Goodreads that should be read instead – but it really made me stop and think.
Anyway, that’s me tearing up as I try to put into words how seen I feel by this book. I will be making finding S. K. Ali’s debit a priority – and passing this book on to others.