Review by Jamie Clayton
Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali is a young adult contemporary romance that brings together two teens from different cultural backgrounds and connects them through their love of the Islamic religion.
We first meet 18 year old Zeynab (the “Z” in the story) as she is dealing with a suspension at her high school in Indiana after confronting an Islamophobic teacher. Her parents, unsure how to keep their passionate daughter from making matters worse, send her to visit her aunt in Qatar for an early spring break. Zeynab is determined to use this time in a place where no one knows her as a way to work on becoming a “nicer” version of herself.
Adam (“A”) is a college freshman in the U.K. who withdrew from school after being diagnosed with a crippling illness. He returns to Doha, Qatar intent on spending time with his grieving father and sister (who are mourning his mother’s death) while trying to hide his disease. He is set on making the most of his time creating art for his sister, but also struggles with an unrelenting fear that his future may run parallel to his mother’s.
Adam and Zeynab’s paths cross on a flight to Doha, Qatar, and through several accidental meetings their friendship grows and their lives intertwine. As attraction builds, we learn more about their personal experiences and battles through the unique writing format that S.K. Ali uses. Alternating chapters, with Zaynab and Adam taking turns sharing their perspective, allows us to follow their intersecting lives and thoughts. The story realistically illustrates ideas about Islam and provides insight into the Muslim culture. It shows Zeynab’s impulsive and emotional character, while also allowing her to grow and push boundaries around her beliefs. Adam’s isn’t characterized as a stereotypical Muslim; he is a Chinese Canadian who converted to Islam at age 11 with his sister and father, after his mother’s death. His relationship with his family after his mother’s death and the role Islam played in helping his family grieve is thoughtfully portrayed.
The heart of the story is a young man and woman exploring their identities through family, faith and friendship. Both are dealing with their own issues and learning to come to terms with the marvels and oddities in their lives. This book doesn’t pull punches about microaggressions and prejudices around Muslim women or the daily struggle and uncertainty of living with a chronic illness. However the characters are real, evolving and relatable, and readers will root for Zeynab and Adam as they move forward into a hopeful future.
Publisher: Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster
You can purchase this book here.
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Awards (the list is long, here are a few):
- Goodreads Readers Choice Nominee
- Kirkus: Best YA Romance of 2019
- School Library Journal: Best YA Book 2019
About the author
S. K. Ali is the author of multiple award winning books including The Proudest Blue, Saints and Misfits, Once Upon an Eid, Misfit in Love and the soon to be released sequel to Love from A to Z, Love from Mecca to Medina. You can find Sajidah online at her relateable SKAlibooks.com and follow her on Twitter @SajidahWrites, Instagram @SKAlibooks and TikTok.
Reviewer: Jamie Clayton
Jamie Clayton is the middle and high school teacher-librarian at ACS International School Doha. She is a native Californian who recently moved into the library after teaching internationally for the past 20 years in Munich, Singapore and now Qatar. She has her master’s degree in library information science and has enjoyed navigating the switch from classroom to library.
Curator of the second #IntlYALitMonth at Global Literature in Libraries Initiative:
Linda Hoiseth is the high school librarian at the American School of Dubai and has previously worked at schools in the US, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Poland, Peru, Qatar, and India. She has a B.S. in English and Secondary Education, an M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction, and a graduate certificate in School Library Media. She’s currently a member of the ECIS Libraries Special Interest Group committee. She’s a fierce advocate for all students to have access to all the books. Follow her on Twitter.