Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape--perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.
Maya Aziz is torn between futures: the one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter (i.e.; staying nearby in Chicago and being matched with a "suitable" Muslim boy), and the one where she goes to film school in New York City--and maybe, just maybe, kisses a guy she's only known from afar. There's the also the fun stuff, like laughing with her best friend Violet, making on-the-spot documentaries, sneaking away for private swimming lessons at a secret pond in the woods. But her world is shattered when a suicide bomber strikes in the American heartland; by chance, he shares Maya's last name. What happens to the one Muslim family in town when their community is suddenly consumed with hatred and fear?
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from NetGalley and Hot Key Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
I fell in love with Maya immediately.
I don’t take to characters that quickly very often. Usually it takes a couple chapters, but Maya is instantly lovable. She’s sweet, kind, and trying desperately to be independent. She is Indian Muslim and with that comes certain expectations. Her mother wants her to marry young, and she must marry appropriately. She does not drink wine or eat pork – Islam forbids it. Family and obedience is important, and her parents have a career planned out for her.
But Maya Aziz wants to kiss a boy. She wants to go to NYU and she wants to make movies. She isn’t a bad daughter. She doesn’t mean to disrespect her culture. She just wants to follow her dreams, even if that means doing it secretly.
Whatever headway she makes vanishes as a terrorist attack in Springfield, OH is attributed to a Muslim man and Islamophobia rears its ugly head.
I am not Indian, and I am not Muslim, so I cannot speak to how this book fares in its representation. From what I’ve read in other reviews, I hear that the Indian rep is pretty good (if somewhat stereotypical at times) and the Muslim rep is not as prominent as readers would like. As this is an #OwnVoices book, I like to think that the culture and sentiments expressed as Samira Ahmed’s, and they are true to her. I thought it was great, but I have no right to judge.
Beyond that, I absolutely adored this book. Contemporary is very hit-or-miss for me, but when I love it, I really love it. I loved Love, Hate, & Other Filters. I admired Maya’s courage, her friendships, and her normality. She never felt like a caricature, as too often happens in contemporary. She’s rounded, well-written… and as I said in the beginning, so so likable. Violet, her best friend, is steadfast and true. In both Phil and Violet, I like to believe there’s a better version of America than the one that so often makes the news. Neither of these two characters ever see Maya for the color of her skin or where she goes to pray. They are respectful, but not awkward. They are good friends, and prove themselves over and over.
The only part I would criticize is the ending. Story-wise, I actually liked it. As someone who was disowned by her parents for several years (after, like Maya, making life choices that starkly stood against their beliefs), it was strange and nice to see that in a book. I imagine it will be an ending like mine – where things are strained but new trust and understanding is sown with the help of others and a relationship is reformed. What I didn’t love about the ending was how rushed it felt. In a few short pages, everything is tied together with a bow in a summary, back and forth in different scenes. After all the time I spent getting to know Maya and rooting for her, it felt anticlimactic.
Otherwise, I cannot recommend this book enough. It was thoughtful and intriguing. It added more diversity to YA in places sorely missing it. But I don’t think this book should be read just because it is an #OwnVoices novel. This is a genuinely good book with excellent writing and characters (Hina. Amazing.) and a story that will make readers think about the way their behave and perceive things. There are so many strong quotes and lines and I loved it.