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Book Reviews Love from A to Z is a letter to more than just those who inhabit the book

Handout

  • Title: Love from A to Z
  • Author: S.K. Ali
  • Genre: Young adult
  • Publisher: Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
  • Pages: 342

Love from A to Z takes what seems like just another adorable teenage love story and pushes it to a whole new level by infusing it with the painful and heavy experience of enduring Islamophobia – more importantly it manages to tackle both topics without being saccharine or careless.

When we meet 18-year-old Zayneb Malik, she has just been suspended for standing up to Fencer, her Islamophobic teacher. He targets her especially because she is a hijabi and therefore a visible Muslim. With the suspension adding an extra week to spring break, her parents allow her to visit her aunt in Doha, Qatar, earlier than planned. While sitting at the airport reading through numerous online hateful comments from other students at her school, she meets Adam.

Adam Chen converted to Islam at the age of 11. At 18, he decided to drop out of school after receiving a multiple sclerosis diagnosis. Armed with his decision and the diagnosis he hasn’t told anyone about, he’s sitting at the airport waiting to fly home to his dad and sister in Doha when he meets Zayneb. Their worlds collide in more ways than they anticipate and although they share an instant connection, their vastly different experiences in dealing with pain pose a real threat to their budding romance.

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But it’s not just their love on which the novel focuses. In almost every moment in the book – which is written in a diary format with entries by both protagonists – there are acts of kindness. When Adam temporarily loses his sight and ability to walk, Zahid, a taxi driver, shows up for him and although they are strangers, Zahid drives him to the hospital and takes on the role of “uncle” as he stays by his side through the visit. When Zayneb faces discrimination by a man for wearing a burkini to the condo pool, it is her aunt who stands up for her. Then there’s the love readers get to see between Adam and his sister Hanna, Zayneb and her friends and Adam and his late mom.

This is S.K. Ali’s second book, and it’s a powerful one because it’s so personal, giving readers a glimpse into how Islamophobia affects Muslims. Love from A to Z is a love letter to those who share the Islamic faith and a call to act with love and empathy to those who don’t.

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