Love From A To Z by S.K. Ali
Publisher: Salaam Reads (Simon Pulse)
Release Date: April 30, 2019
Available Through The Book Depository: Love From A To Z
Summary: A marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.
An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.
But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.
When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.
Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.
Then her path crosses with Adam’s.
Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.
Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father.
Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals.
Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…
Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.
Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting.
My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½
My Thoughts: Love From A To Z is a marvel! This is a YA Contemporary that explores the introspective parts of ourselves and how life’s marvels and oddities allow us to navigate our world in different ways! S.K. Ali’s thought-provoking story explores family, grief, love, and deeply explores the harsh reality for many that face Islamaphobia. This novel balances the real and romantic, making it a complex and heart-warming contemporary story you don’t want to miss!
Love From A To Z is a novel that I know without a doubt were I to read again, would pick up on even more profound and deep messages that layered themselves into this gem of a story!
Zayneb Malik knows she was born angry. Its through this anger that she learns its for the right reasons, to challenge and speak up against the injustices around her. This includes speaking up against her Islamaphobic high school teacher, Mr. Fencer.
When her decision to speak up gets her suspended, she takes time to reflect and view things from a different perspective while in Doha, Qatar where she stays with her Auntie Nandy.
But as we learn from the very beginning, Love From A To Z is indeed a love story! Next, we are introduced to Adam Chen, who is tied to Zayneb in a very unique way.
What we quickly learn is that these eighteen-year olds carry a “Marvel & Oddities” journal to not only vent, but admire the world around them. Or more specifically, reflect on their own personal worlds that have shaped them in many ways.
What I loved was that there was a unique contrast to how they each used their journals. Adam is more optimistic, recording more of life’s marvels than oddities, which allow him to look at life more positively. His vow to live more, inspires him to look at these aspects of life that make it what it is. Zayneb sticks to more of the “thorns” or oddities in life, but through that it allows her to examine,ready, and prepare herself to take on the world and its wrongs.
However throughout their journey in Love From A To Z, we see these journal titles begin swapping among the two of them when destiny brings them closer together.
The use of 1st person and journal entries allowed me to connect to these wonderful main characters even more and understand them in a more introspective way! I also found that I really connected with Zayneb & Adam on a deeper, more personal level, through the fact that while I was reading I was also writing notes for each chapter, in the book’s format of diary entries.
Zayneb and Adam meet in the airport and on the same plane when their headed to Doha. Adam is taking a break from university and headed back to see his father and little sister Hanna. He’s also carrying a big secret he’s not entirely sure how to cope with himself, and its that he has Multiple Sclerosis. Throughout the novel as he tries to avoid the discussion with his loved ones for as long as possible (considering that’s also what his mother passed away from when he was 9), so Adam also goes on a journey of understanding what he wants from life going forward.
There’s an adoration they have for each other that subtly develops throughout the book and it was so beautiful to read about. I was smiling the entire time when they recognized each other and were attempting to strengthen their newly formed friendship, all while we knew how much they secretly liked each other! Their friendship/romance was easily one of the many highlights of this novel–their chemistry and dynamic was heartwarming to read and I–just loved them a lot!! Zayneb and Adam captured my heart and every time they were in scenes together…my heart couldn’t handle their cuteness!! 💖💖
This novel also explores faith in a beautiful way as we learn both Zayneb and Adam are Muslim. Faith is different for everyone and the way both of these inspiring protagonists see that to further connect them to one another and find this special bond, was heartwarming.
I loved exploring the layers and different facets to faith in this story. Zayneb is a hijabi-Muslim and proud of it. I admired her bravery and courage to correct others and just connect with the reader through her personal thoughts on faith and being Muslim.
Adam is also Muslim, but he converted around the age of 11 after his mother passed away. Faith for him is also a way to have that connection to his mother and find this deep and unique connection with Zayneb.
Going back to Zayneb and Adam as characters, I loved how incredibly real they became and when I reached the last page I was sobbing at how sad I was to be leaving these characters and their story.
Zayneb embraces her anger and its wonderful to read because its through this anger she finds the strength to combat against injustice in many forms. I respect and admire her anger and how its such an outward part of how she presents her values and beliefs on how wrongs should be dealt with. we don’t see that a lot in YA female characters and I respect/admire that a lot.
Compare that to Adam whose a more soft and quiet soul. However, its also through that we see his worries are channeled through a more reserved way of expressing the things he encounters in life.
Through Ali’s writing, not only is it beautiful and introspective, but it also allows the reader to fully understand and connect with our wonderful cast of characters on such deep level, aside from Zayneb and Adam: there’s Aunty Nandy, Zayneb’s parents, older brother and sister, Adam’s father, sister Hanna, the Emma’s, Zayneb’s grandmother (who we never actually meet), and Zayneb’s friends at home.
There’s layers to these characters that get uncovered as we progress through Adam and Zayneb’s journals and I love how Ali layered these different facets to their characters in such a great way.
One example comes that comes to mind is Adam’s sister Hanna! She becomes more of a main character throughout Love From A To Z and we see how she such leaves an impact on both Zayneb and Adam throughout their journeys.
Another quality they both share that is an essential part to their story and character was this element of hiding a facet of who they were. With Zayneb, it was keeping the angry part of her subdued for the sake of “peace” during her trip away and with that, she keeps this hidden from Adam in an attempt to reinvent this fundamental part of herself.
With Adam, it was this fear of uncertainty that he kept his MS hidden to ensure his loved ones wouldn’t have to grieve, especially his father who still struggles with the loss of his wife. From an early age, Adam learned the pain he felt with the loss of his mother had lessened over time because he kept all the vital memories of her, alive in his heart. However, throughout the book Adam learned to confront his fear with the strength of his family, faith, and memories of his mother.
They find that the more they keep these parts of themselves hidden, how increasingly difficult it became for them to come to fully embrace who they were with each other (which led to a certain point where they felt they didn’t really understand one another). That broke my heart because its clear there’s such a deeper connection between them and I turned page after page seeing where their relationship was headed.
An important part of this novel that was incredibly explored was the underlying journey Zayneb and Adam accept as they learn to better understand the vital parts of their personalities that shape who they are and want to become!
Love From A To Z is also wonderfully diverse from the story taking place mainly in Qatar, it centers around our main characters Zayneb who is 1/2 Pakistani and West Indian and Adam who is a Canadian with a Chinese & Finnish background. There’s also many facets and layers to Muslim and Hijabi culture that’s explored as well.
In addition, Love From A To Z also deeply analyzes many themes which makes it such a complex and moving contemporary story. From the exploration of grief, loss, layers of love, and the very present topic of Islamaphobia and the pain felt by those who experience microaggressions because people aren’t willing to look past their close-minded views.
Above all, Love From A To Z is about the marvels and oddities that Adam & Zayneb grasp/hold onto, which influences how they see the world around them and choose to act.
Love From A To Z a thought-provoking, romantic, and immersive YA Contemporary! Unique in every way, the fantastic cast of characters, magnificent writing, deeply explored themes, with two leads that will capture your heart! S.K. Ali’s latest contemporary story is one that will captivate you start to finish!