I am so in love with this book, I can’t even put it into words! Like A Love Story by Abdi Nazemian is one of my all-time favorite books ever! It’s not often that you find a new voice in YA literature, but the storytelling in this book is completely unique and refreshing. It’s so raw and honest, so vivid in the description of the fear of AIDS and discrimination, cruelty and violence, but also so hopeful and loving, so full of activism, friendship and community, courage and pride. My first feeling when I finished it was to shout to the world to GO READ THIS BOOK! Then I wanted to turn back to the first page and reread it all again.
This is a story about three somewhat misfit teenagers in New York City in 1989, trying to find out who they are and where they belong. It’s also such an important, necessary, story about the LGBTQ movement, the AIDS crisis and the ACT UP activism, giving voice to the heroes behind the formation of a queer community fighting for everyone’s right to be themselves against homophobia and prejudices. But most of all it’s a story about friendship, finding the courage to be true to who you are and learning to love and be proud despite all discrimination and cruelty around you.
“The most important four-letter word in our history will always be LOVE. That’s what we are fighting for. That’s who we are. Love is our legacy.”
The characters are amazing, so lovable and unique. I don’t even know where to start… There’s Reza, an Iranian boy who is new at school and terrified that someone will guess the truth he can barely acknowledge about himself; that he is attracted to boys. But all he knows of gay life are the media’s images of men dying of AIDS. Then there’s Art, the school’s only out teen and the flamboyant, rebellious son of wealthy and conservative parents, and Judy, an aspiring fashion designer and hopeless romantic. And last, but absolutely not least, Judy’s uncle Stephen, an ACT UP activist and Hollywood fanatic, dying of AIDS. Art and Judy have always been best friends, spending every Sunday night watching old movies at Uncle Stephen’s and telling each other absolutely everything. But, when Reza stumbles into their lives and starts dating Judy (and Art starts catching feelings), things get a little bit more complicated.
These characters are what made the story! I adored every single one of them as the story unfolded. Abdi Nazemian describes them with such integrity and empathy, allowing them to be real, with flaws and less likeable traits, and in a way that made you fall in love with them and break your heart when theirs did. Reza, Art, Judy and Stephen immediately seared themselves into my heart. And the side characters are just as loveable. Judy’s parents, Reza’s wonderful supportive and rebellious sister, and even Reza’s stepdad and stepbrother in the end.
And Madonna! This book is also a wonderful homage to Madonna. She’s almost like a character in the book, that’s how big her part is. I absolutely love how the importance Madonna has, and has always had, for the queer community and the courage to self-expression and individually, is so knowledgeable described. I couldn’t stop myself from humming her songs while reading, like a soundtrack.
The way Abdi Nazemian writes is simply amazing. This is such a fast read, I felt like I was flying through this book. From the very first page, the story just pulled me in and I couldn’t put it down. I read it feverishly and finished it in one sitting! The topic is heavy at times, with the fear of dying, the fear of condemnation and of being rejected and humiliated, but the way Abdi Nazemian writes about those who were dying is so respectful, yet honest and realistic. There is absolutely no glorification of AIDS, all the grit and horror that went along with it are kept real. I loved the detail with Uncle Stephen keeping a jar with jelly beans for each friend who has died.
“Don’t forget me. Us. All of us. What we did. What we fought for. Our history. Who we are. They won’t teach it in schools. They don’t want us to have a history.”
Well, with this book, Abdi Nazemian has changed that. Uncle Stephen, Art, Reza and all others in the queer community of the late 80’s now have a history. A history that will be taught in schools.
I could go on forever about how wonderful and amazing this book is, and how it will stick with you for forever, but all I really want to say now is… GO READ IT! This book should be read by everyone!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Abdi Nazemian