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
|CW: Islamophobia, cultural appropriation, chronic illness, racist microaggression, talk of rape, talk of family death, talk of war and war victims|
Chinese-Canadian, Muslim, Multiple Sclerosis, POC.
A marvel of a book…
Love From A to Z was one of my most anticipated books of last year and you can’t imagine how happy I was when I somehow managed to convince my cousin to get me a copy for my birthday in July last year, and as I hoped it didn’t disappoint. When I finished this book, I was positively over the moon and I’d had another book I completely adored.
We follow the story of Adam and Zayneb (a character who shares my name, yay!) through their journals. Adam is a college student who has recently dropped out of his course following being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Zayneb (i won’t make any other name comment after this one i promise, but yay!) is a senior year high school who has been suspended from school for ‘threatening’ a wildly Islamophobic teacher. Somehow, maybe by the hand of fate, their paths cross. Two different people who share a journal.
I can’t begin to fully explain how much I love this book. Love From A to Z felt like the book I’ve been waiting my whole life for. I have so many feelings and not enough words to explain, but I’ll try.
I’ll start with the romance aka one of the most amazing things amongst all the amazing things in this amazing book. I know I’m being extra.
I love romance. I love halal romances, because they’re like peak Muslim, lol. Teen halal romances? Hell yes! But Love from A to Z has to be the most adorable halal romance ever. Most adorable halal teen romance.
What makes Love from A to Z superior over every other halal teen romance I’ve ever read? (which isn’t much, oop)
Its because it really explores being young and in love. I absolutely love how it explores teen emotions and love connect to being Muslim. I don’t think any other book as gotten being a Muslim teenager in love and today’s world completely right, but this book pretty much did. I’m going to combine this with the cute and relatable moments, lol.
Meeting a cute boy on the plane and finding out he’s Muslim too? Yes. Finding out said boy might actually like you too? Scream worthy yes. Inviting each other out, but with a family member or friends around to keep it halal? Yes. Texting each other random stuff? I’m crying but, yes. The feelings, the lust (which people try to shy away from, but yes teenagers can be lustful), but remembering Astagfirullah you’re entering forbidden territory? Yes!
Yes, the romance was everything but Love from A to Z was more than just the romance. It highlighted so many things central to the Muslim identity and also being a Muslim teenager in the twenty first century. While it’ll be false to say all Muslims share the same experiences, practice faith the same way; there are things we have all experienced even in small doses, and we have seen happening to people like us and this book shows different perspectives and experiences.
Despite all its cuteness, Love From A to Z, brought up difficult topics like Islamophobia, disability, wars and grief. Islamophobia in its different forms, and it means to be visibly Muslim today. I absolutely loved how SK Ali handled the MS rep. I don’t have words.
The writing was amazing, although a bit unconventional but it made the book even more amazing. I haven’t read a book that uses journal entries instead of titles, but SK Ali makes it work so well I really don’t think if it had been writing the ‘normal’ way, I’d feel so close to the characters. Writing the titles gave me an idea of what the chapter was and added to its impact, and reading their journals made me feel more connected to the characters.
I know I’m repeating myself but SK Ali is a genius.
The characters, my babies, my heart…
You know that book with characters so amazing you’ll fight anyone and everyone for? That’s Love From A to Z. It has to have one of the most lovable and relatable characters.
Being a character centred book, the characters didn’t just hold the story together, but gave its magic.
I adored the main characters, Adam and Zayneb. They’re like two polar opposites that just seem to attract each other. Like poles on a magnet. Adam is a laid back, quiet, soft spoken and gentle guy and Zayneb? Zayneb is fiery, passionate and a bit volatile like a storm or the sea after a rain. That’s Adam and Zayneb. Adam is like a sweet, gentle rain or the sea on a calm day and Zayneb is the opposite of that. Their differences are even made more obvious by the entries in their journals. Adam enters more marvels and Zayneb, the oddities.
The character relationships and development was just great also. I loved Adam’s relationship with his family. How he cares for his sister and her for him. His memories of his mum and the overall family relationship. Zayneb’s relationship with her family too was also amazing. And more than their families, I loved the friendships.
Love From A to Z had well rounded characters, I cannot stress how much the characters developed. Adam comes to terms with his diagnosis and realises he can be happy, and Zayneb being unapologetically Zayneb once more. I really don’t think I can care about book characters anymore than I care about these two.
It was a masterpiece…
I feel like despite all I’ve said I haven’t really been able to do this book one bit of justice. It’s so amazing, I just can’t say enough. All I can say is that you need to read this. This book deserves more recognition than it gets. Thank you, SK Ali for writing this. I really have no words. I should end this before I start crying again.
2000% recommend. All of my heart belongs to this book.