Book Review: Love, Hate & Other Filters
Title: Love, Hate & Other Filters (standalone)
Author: Samira Ahmed
Blurb: 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.
American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.
There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.
Review: I really can’t gush about Love, Hate & Other Filters enough. This is one of the most important novels I’ve ever read, and is one I fully intend to incorporate into my curriculum when I start teaching again. Ahmed’s story tackles the struggle of being a Muslim American post 9/11 and what it’s like to confront Islamophobia and day-to-day microaggressions so beautifully. She gives voice to an important group of American society that isn’t heard nearly as much as it should be.
Characters/Voice: I was on Team Maya right away. You’ll root for Maya, cry for her, be embarrassed for her, etc. Her wit, inner strength, film-nerdiness, and love for her family (even if she occasionally—and understandably—gets mildly irritated with them) make her a sympathetic heroine, once you want to immediately be friends with. Her parents are equally charming, as is her aunt. Phil, the love interest, isn’t your stereotypical quarterback either, which was so refreshing.
Pacing: This was a quick read for me, and one you won’t want to put down. When I had reached the end, I found myself in a state of disbelief over how there weren’t any more pages to turn. Yes, the story shows the everyday life of a teenage girl, and some of it may not be especially extraordinary, but nothing about the story is boring.
Plot: Wonderful. There’s a great arc to the story, and a really satisfying ending. No plotholes. Maya’s clashes with her parents over her choice of college and study, her journey to follow her dreams and discover what she really wants, the discrimination she faces, and the twists in turns in her friendships and relationships ensure the plot never falls flat.
Setting: The story mostly takes place in Illinois, and believably so. All the parts of Maya’s life are easy to picture, and help to immerse you into her world.
Themes: So much of this story revolves around what it means to be American and family, and much of that just comes down to love, accepting everyone’s differences, not making generalizations, and seeing each other as individuals. Maya’s identity and independence are also thematic pillars in the story—deeply relatable ones.
Note for sensitive readers: While there isn’t any explicit sexual content, sex is mentioned, as is contraception.
I look forward to reading more of Ahmed’s stories in the future: INTERNMENT (Spring 2019) and MAD, BAD & DANGEROUS TO KNOW (Fall 2019).
Jessica, signing off.