Having read Saints and Misfits and loving it, I knew I had to read this book as soon as it was announced! And this book is the love story I have been wanting to read my whole life! I read this book in June and I’m still thinking about it! Look you all need to go read this book!
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
Fuelled 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
Before I even start talking about the book I just need to take a moment and fangirl about the fact there is a hijabi on the cover! Being able to see a young girl in a hijab on the cover will never stop making me super excited and happy. I finally have the rep I never knew I needed to see.
So about the story, look this book will send you on a whirlwind of emotions. You will feel giddy, happy, sad, frustrated, angry and everything in between. S.K. Ali has written such wonderful complex characters, they are so layered and so real. One of the things I realised as I was reading this is that Zaineb and Adam reminded me of me and my husband. The similarities in our personalities and how we are and how we eventually got married was uncanny! So this book hit me on a different level honestly.
This book is a love story but that’s not the only thing that happens in the story. Both Zaineb and Adam are dealing with their own difficulties in their own lives when they meet. They both live full, complex lives outside of each other and I loved seeing that! I loved that their story was more than them just falling in love, because real life isn’t like that.
Zayneb is so relatable! She is passionate and outspoken but is also angry (rightfully so) but she lets that dictate how she expresses herself. Her character arc is so wonderful to read, she learns a lot about herself and Adam shows her a different view in life. She also has such a wonderful group friends. I loved reading her scenes when she spoke to her friends. It was so relatable and funny. While they love and care and support each other, they can still make mistakes and hurt each other. But they apologise and try to fix their mistakes. Zaineb at one point feels jealous but it doesn’t end in her or the others being petty to each other. She deals with it maturely and just I loved seeing that. More great female friendships in books please!
“Like, I’m a person who feels things strongly. And I don’t know how to deal with my feelings. The way society tells me to. Which is mostly to ignore them.”
She has to deal with Islamophobia that occurs in her school by her teacher and being discriminated against at the pool and white privilege. These are things that a lot of Muslims face, especially if you are visibly Muslim, like Zaineb is. She has to listen to her teacher fill the class with hatred towards Muslim’s and it makes her angry, she has to deal with the white people who think it’s okay to demand she wears a swimming costume and not a burkini, despite the burkini meeting the requirements for using the pool. Something we see time and time again, other people trying to control how Muslim women dress, while silencing these women’s voices. It all felt so real, they were situations which were similar to ones I had to deal with and I know many others will be able to relate too.
“What riles me is that people think Islamophobia is these little or big acts of violence. Someone getting their hijab ripped off, someone’s business getting vandalised, someone getting hurt, or yes, even killed.
No, there’s the other kind too, and it’s a more prevalent kind: the slow steady barrage of tiny acts of prejudice, these your-people-are-trash lightsabre cuts that tear and peel strips off your soul until you can’t feel your numbed heart any longer.”
She described how I’ve felt for so long but was never able to express. And it felt so good to see that written there because I am not alone.
Okay so I’ve been talking about Zaineb for a while now so I’m going to talk about Adam now. He is a cinnamon roll okay. He is king and thoughtful and while Zaineb is loud, he is quiet and someone who has learnt pretty early on how to truly listen to others. He cares deeply for his family and despite going through so much he is always there for his little sister. I really loved his relationship with his sister. I completely fell in love with Adam.
Adam has just found that he has Multiple Sclerosis and the diagnosis scares him and makes him re-evaluate what he wants to do in life. Having a long-term health condition myself, I really related to how he struggled through his diagnosis and managing it. And he did a lot better than I did when I found out. This is a big part of his story arc and I really loved how it was shown.
The second half of the book had me on the edge of my seat and grinning like a fool. I loved how they were able to speak to each other and learn about each other and realise that actually they like each other and want to marry each other but within the boundaries of Islam. Which is how a lot of us meet our spouses so it was really nice to see that.
“‘Astaghfirullah. I thought we were following the rules. You should be telling me to lower my gaze, brother,’ she said, shaking her finger at me, a smile on her face. ‘And where’s your dad? If my sister, Sadia, were here, she’d say we weren’t following the rules.'”
I think it’s safe to say that I absolutely adored this book and you should all go read it! Not only does it have the cutest love story ever but it also shows a nuanced and complex Muslim identity and that not every Muslim is the exact same.