I picked this book up, knowing the target audience was LGBTQ+. A lot of people don’t know, but I’m part of the alphabet mafia. I think the reason people don’t know, unless we talk on a regular basis, is because I never really had to “come out”. I was never in the closet about my sexuality. I knew I was attracted to people (even if I am a little picky).
In How It All Blew Up by Arvin Ahmadi, the protagonist is Amir Azadi, a closeted 18-year-old who goes from his usual life at yet another new school to ditching his graduation on an anxiety-propelled whim to Rome.
I’ll try not to spoil too much, but this book was *chef’s kiss* good. I’d recommend it to just about anyone, even if you aren’t in the community, allies could stand to see the perspective of someone struggling with their sexual identity.
Amir and his family are used to being bullied for being Iranian and Muslim. In fact, Amir mentions how there’s a unity in them sticking together through those moments, but being gay (a “double-whammy” as he calls it) is just not acceptable in his family.
The book starts off with one of the best lines as Amir and his family are detained in an airport: “I’m not a terrorist, I’m just gay!” The story is told from multiple perspectives, each of them in interrogation rooms, from Amir explaining his reasoning for taking off to Rome, to his sister, Soroya, who used her investigative skills and social media savvy to track down her brother, and to their parents, trying their best to keep the situation underwraps.
In Rome, Amir meets new friends who he finally feels like he belongs with, and a few romantic interests, not least of whom cause him a bit of trouble. His new friends give him a renewed sense of self, and I can only hope everyone has friends that make them feel so free to be themselves.
While not all love and light, there are plenty of moments of discomfort and flat-out heartbreak, but doesn’t every good book have elements that make us sad or uncomfortable?
Overall, I enjoyed the book, but I can understand the criticism it received when it came out. It was marketed as a Muslim YA, but has no mention of Islam being practiced by any of the characters. I can’t speak on the religion itself, but I wouldn’t mind reading a story where the characters do practice their faith on the page. If you have any suggestions (not limited to strictly LGBTQ+), leave a comment below!
What are your thoughts on How It All Blew Up?