A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers will learn about the history and politics surrounding the AIDS crisis, the gay liberation movement, the Iranian revolution, as well as other events from the 1980s such as the Central Park Five case. Many facts about famous musicians, actors, and authors who were popular in the '80s and figures in gay culture. In-depth look at the ACT UP movement and various real life protests and demonstrations the activist group organized. The author lists influential films, artists, scholars, and activists from the LGBT community in the back if the book.
Love, self-expression, empathy, forgiveness, following your heart, and fighting for justice are all major themes. Supportive friends can help you process grief and mortality. Standing up for what you believe can have a real impact on the world. Communication is key for relationships and friendships to endure hardships.
Positive Role Models
The three main characters strive to make good choices in spite of their fears and setbacks, though they are not always successful. They have unique interests, are passionate about justice and have strong moral convictions. Reza's story is a realistic example of what closeted teens go through. Reza, Art, and Judy all experience the negative impact of dishonesty on their friendship and work hard to right their wrongs. The adults in the story are portrayed as flawed, but positive figures. Uncle Stephen is an especially important mentor who teaches the trio life lessons about forgiveness, love, and individuality. Diverse depiction of LGBT people and allies. Positive portrayal of cultural differences and being an immigrant in America.
Violence & Scariness
A main character physically attacks a bully at school for using homophobic language, police are aggressive and throw activists to the ground at ACT UP protests, but there's no serious injuries.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Sex is a prominent, complex issue in the book. Reza especially struggles with his identity due to the panic surrounding AIDS, and he must learn to overcome his fear of sex to be truly happy. Safe sex practices are discussed at length and with sensitivity. Couples kiss, teens get tested for STDs, and two teen boys have sex for the first time, but there's nothing graphic.
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Infrequent swearing includes "damn," "ass," "bitch," "dick," "s--t," and "f--k." Homophobic slurs such as "f-g" are commonly used, along with xenophobic and racist remarks about Reza's heritage. Some crass humor and sexual innuendos.
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Products & Purchases
References to various brands, companies, and famous New York City restaurants, mostly for scene setting and historical context. Mentions of Pepsi, Discman, Calvin Klein, People magazine. The main characters are obsessed with Madonna and purchase posters and shirts with her face on them.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink wine. Teens drink at a party but not excessively. Reference to AIDS patients heavily taking morphine near end of life.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Like a Love Story is a coming-of-age story about friendship, love, and activism set against the backdrop of the AIDS crisis in New York City in the late 1980s. It's told from the perspective of three teens, Reza, Art, and Judy, as they navigate relationships, family problems, and high school drama. Judy's uncle Stephen is a gay man with AIDS who serves as a role model to the trio and introduces them to the activist group ACT UP. Death and mortality are recurring topics, and there's an emotional scene in which a supporting character passes away due to an AIDS-related illness. There's plenty of sex talk throughout, though most of it is in the context of promoting safe sex and destigmatizing AIDS. Two teen boys in a relationship lose their virginity to each other. Teens discuss sex and sexuality, make out, and drink alcohol on several occasions. A main character starts a physical fight with a homophobic bully at school. Occasional strong language includes "Jesus Christ," "damn," "ass," "bitch," "s--t," and "f--k," as well as some instances of homophobic and racist name-calling.
Is It Any Good?
Author Abdi Nazemian has crafted a powerful, entertaining story with as many heartrending moments as there are laughs and Madonna references. Partially based on the author's own life experiences, Like a Love Story paints a vibrant and complex portrait of gay culture at a time when the LGBT community was facing one of the darkest chapters in its history. But even when things are at their worst, the resilience of Reza, Art, and Judy shines through and keeps the story moving. Each character feels unique and personal. As we witness the trio navigate such turbulent years, we get to know them at their lowest and highest points; their failures and successes become our failures and successes. And although it can be frustrating when one of them makes a wrong turn, it's all the more rewarding to see how they learn and grow from their mistakes.
The name-dropping of prominent celebrities, popular media, and fashion trends of the may be too heavy-handed for some teens to appreciate, but the wealth of influences present in Like a Love Story help enrich this compelling and worthwhile read.
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.