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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the "A" in S.K. Ali's Love from A to Z is Adam Chen, a Chinese Finnish Canadian Muslim university freshman with a devastating secret. The "Z" is Zayneb Malik, a Pakistani Guyanese Trinidadian hijab-wearing high school senior from Indiana, who's been suspended from school after confronting an Islamophobic teacher. The two meet on a flight to Doha, Qatar, where both will be spending spring break. Adam is returning home to tell his father and sister that he's been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, the disease that took his mother's life. As the story and a budding romance unfold, Adam tries to see his way forward into an uncertain future, and Zayneb teams up with her friends back home to try to hold her teacher to account. There are a few uses of strong language ("bitch," "s--t," "bulls--t," "a--hole," and a single use of "c--t"). Told through the journal entries of Adam and Zayneb, the novel uses two enormously relatable and thoughtful characters to shine a bright light on Islamophobia, social injustice, and drone warfare.
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What's the story?
LOVE FROM A TO Z begins on a flight to Doha, the capital of Qatar. Adam Chen, a Chinese Finnish Canadian university freshman is summoning the courage to tell his father and younger sister that he has multiple sclerosis (MS), the same disease that killed his mother 10 years before. Zayneb Malik, a Pakistani Guyanese Trinidadian high school senior from Indiana, got an unexpected early start to her spring break by being suspended from school after confronting a teacher who constantly brings his Islamophobia into the classroom. After meeting briefly on the plane, the two reconnect at a party, and Adam and Zayneb (often with his younger sister, Hanna) begin spending time together. As young Muslims (Adam, his father, and sister are converts), they share a common set of values when it comes to even casual dating: no kissing, touching, or sexting. They're still beginning to explore their feelings for each other when their relationship is put to the test. Adam has a serious attack of MS, and Zayneb needs support and understanding when she learns that her Pakistani grandmother, on her way to a wedding, was killed in an American drone strike gone terribly wrong. As the time for her to leave Doha and Adam to return to Indiana nears, Zayneb and her high school friends think they may have uncovered a way to publicly expose their teacher as a racist. An epilogue brings readers up to date on Adam and Zayneb's lives four years later.
Is it any good?
This unforgettable love story takes on controversial issues like Islamophobia, racism in the classroom, and the morality of drone warfare. Like Ali's first novel, Saints and Misfits, Love from A to Z features a smart, feisty hijab-wearing teen girl who sees an injustice and demands that it be righted. Both novels are excellent reads for teens who want to learn more about what life is like for young Muslims living their faith in a multicultural world that can be both welcoming and threatening.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the racism and bigotry that Zayneb encounters in Love from A to Z. What do you think of how she handles her encounters with the woman on the plane and the man at the pool? What would you have done?
If a teacher at your school made racist or homophobic statements or was demeaning to girls in the class, what would happen to him or her? Why do you think it took so long for someone to stand up to Mr. Fencer?
How did you like the story being told through the journal entries of Adam and Zayneb? Did you find it effective? Why do you think the author chose that format?
As they start spending time together, Adam and Zayneb share a common set of values on how they'll behave -- no kissing, no touching, no sexting. Do you think it's a good idea to set some ground rules when you begin dating someone?
- Author: S.K. Ali
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Activism, Book Characters, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: April 30, 2019
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
- Number of pages: 352
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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