Love from A to Z by S. K. Ali [in Booklist]
In an unusual narrative structure, S. K. Ali (Saints and Misfits, 2017) inserts herself directly into her latest #OwnVoices Muslim rom-com, making her aural debut. She opens by introducing two teens intrigued with “marvels” and “oddities” – whose alternating journal entries follow – then intervenes halfway when the would-be lovers’ stories might diverge; near book’s end, she reads the epilogue followed by a final (don’t skip it) author’s note.
In between, versatile Priya Ayyar becomes Zeynab, a 16-year-old Indiana high schooler who’s been suspended because she finally stood up to her Islamaphobic teacher. Relative newcomer and screen actor Tim Chiou is Adam, a London college freshman who has dropped out after learning he has MS – which killed his mother. The pair meet briefly on the same flight to Doha, Qatar, but are officially introduced by Zeynab’s aunt, who turns out to be Adam’s former teacher and his late mother’s best friend.
Both teens are devout Muslims; both are harboring secrets; both will need to understand and share their truths to parents, friends, each other, and themselves. Ali, Ayyar, and Chiou deliver an illuminating, resonating performance.
Readers: Young Adult