There was a time that I would just choose books based on their jacket cover description or because I was familiar with the author. There wasn’t a lot of depth to the reasoning behind my selections - I just liked a good story. These days, I still really like a good story, but there’s more to gain from the books I choose, especially when it comes to fiction. I’m finding that today’s fiction frequently skirts the line between real-life and the imagined, drawing out the reader’s empathy and making it easier to access new perspectives, and S.K. Ali’s “Love from A to Z” is no different. Zayneb is an empassioned and devout Muslim teenager, and the only Muslim in a high school class led by an Islamophobic teacher. When she has had enough and confronts her teacher, she is suspended from school and heads to Doha, Qatar to spend two weeks with her Auntie Nandy. On the flight there, she meets Adam, a “supercute” college student on his way home for spring break. Although they don’t recognize it at first, the two fall instantly in love, and continue to be brought together through a series of serendipitous events. Despite having the tone of the light and sweet awkwardness of first love, “Love from A to Z” carries with it more dark and serious themes. Ali weaves together the Muslim experience, grief, politics, the death of a parent, and multiple sclerosis, in an effortless way that doesn’t overwhelm the narrative. Her characters are very relatable and the messages imparted through them are so important, that one can’t help but feel a sense of essential insight and awareness by the end of this beautiful book. Ali states in her Author’s Note, that she writes “for all of you - those who know what it feels like and those who don’t, but want to,” and I highly recommend that we all become the readers who want to.
Thank you S.K. Ali for sharing your voice, and thank you to Net Galley and Simon & Schuster Canada for the opportunity to review this advance reader copy.
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