A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The story offers a lively look at Rome as Amir explores everything from gelato shops to the Vatican's Sistine Chapel.
Shows that even seemingly insurmountable conflicts and misunderstandings between family members can be resolved if everyone will be open and honest about their feelings.
Positive Role Models
Amir is smart and enterprising (making money editing Wikipedia pages), but he also runs away rather than giving his parents a chance to accept his coming out. While his diverse set of friends in Rome really tries to look out for Amir by offering him (almost always) good advice, giving him a place to live when he first arrives, tutoring him in Italian, and showing him around the city, they also get drunk with him and take him along to sometimes wild parties.
Violence & Scariness
Brief references to a boy who's always beating up other boys and a saint who was skinned alive and beheaded.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
There's kissing, making out, and a scene involving kissing and pulling off pants. Two characters have a complicated sexually open relationship.
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Characters regularly use profanity ("f—k,"s—t," "a—hole," "Jesus," "bastard").
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The drinking age in Italy is 18 and Amir regularly drinks and gets drunk with his friends. A character smokes cigarettes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that as Arvin Ahmadi's How It All Blew Up begins, 18-year-old Iranian American Amir Azadi is trying to explain to a United States Customs and Border Protection officer that he's not a terrorist, just a teen who's been afraid to tell his parents that he's gay. His story unfolds in flashbacks as he tells the officer about a secret first boyfriend at his high school, being blackmailed by fellow students, his impulsive decision to run off to Rome, the older gay friends he meets there, and the family argument on the plane home from Italy that had landed him, his parents, and his sister in interrogation rooms. Characters regularly use profanity ("f—k,"s—t," "a—hole," "bastard") and Amir and his friends do a good deal of drinking and partying in Rome. There's kissing, making out, and a scene involving kissing and pulling off pants. Two characters have a complicated sexually open relationship.
Is It Any Good?
This often funny coming-of-age (and coming out) novel has a serious storyline about how secrets and fear can break apart even the most loving, supportive family. While the Amir family in How It All Blew Up is Muslim, his parents' problems with homosexuality are presented as cultural rather than religious, making it easy for readers from a wide range of backgrounds to identify with the conflict between them. A note at the front of the book says this is "a story based on true events."
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.