Published by Soho Teen on January 16th 2018
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Samira Ahmed’s debut novel Love, Hate, and Other Filters is a powerful coming of age story about a young woman caught between wanting to follow her dreams wherever they may take her, but also not wanting to disappoint her parents who have their own hopes and dreams for her. Indian American teen Maya Aziz is a seventeen-year-old high school senior with a mad passion for filmmaking. It’s her dream to move to New York and study film making at NYU. Film making and boys (specifically her longtime crush, Phil) are pretty much all Maya ever thinks about. Unfortunately, Maya’s passions are at odds with what her parents want for her, which is to go to college close to home and study something practical like medicine or law, and then settle down with a suitable Indian husband. Love, Hate, and Other Filters follows Maya as she tries to navigate the many obstacles that are in the way of her getting what she wants most.
Then, as if Maya’s personal life wasn’t filled with enough obstacles, her life is completely thrown into turmoil when there is a terrorist attack in her state’s capital, just a few hundred miles away from her home. The prime suspect in the attack shares the same last name as Maya and even though she and her family have lived in the same community for all of Maya’s life, they suddenly become targets of those around her who are consumed by fear, hatred, and bigotry. The Islamophobia is so rampant that Maya’s parents become even more determined that Maya go to college as close to home as possible.
Is there any way Maya can convince her parents to let her go away to NYC for school? Does she have any chance of being with Phil who is starting to finally show some interest in Maya as well, even though he is neither Muslim nor Indian? Can Maya find the strength to confront her parents so that her dreams aren’t sacrificed because of their fears?
Maya was definitely my favorite part of Love, Hate, and Other Filters. She’s such a likable teen and I loved her passion for film making and all of her references to classic films that she loves. I especially liked the way she often looked at scenes unfolding around her in the real world, imagining how she might create a film from them. I thought that made for such a fun and unique perspective. I also liked that Maya is independent and a bit sassy at times, even though she still wants to be a good daughter and not upset her parents. Sometimes she can be a bit rude to them when they keep trying to push their own agenda when it comes to her future, but even though I would sometimes cringe at her comments, I still admired her for trying to stand her ground with them.
I also really enjoyed the secondary characters such as Phil, Maya’s longtime crush. He’s just a super sweet guy and I enjoyed all of his interactions with Maya. The scenes where he teaches her to swim were some of my favorites in the book. So fluffy and sweet!
My favorite secondary character was actually Maya’s aunt, Hina. Hina is probably Maya’s biggest role model and is proof that there is more to life than just doing what your parents want you to do. Hina is unmarried, living on her own in the city, and she’s a very successful graphic designer. She is one of Maya’s biggest supporters when it comes to following her own dreams and offers to run interference on more than one occasion when Maya is having a particularly difficult time communicating with her parents. I adored Hina so much. Heck, I’d love a whole book just devoted to Hina and her life. She was fantastic!
Another great secondary character was Maya’s best friend, Violet. There wasn’t nearly enough of her in the book, but what was there was wonderful because she and Maya have such a strong bond. I love books that feature strong female friendships.
In addition to loving all of these characters and how they fit into Maya’s coming of age journey, I also liked that this book was so much more than just a simple coming of age story. It’s also an important book that tackles the very relevant topic of Islamophobia and how Muslims are so unfairly targeted by people who can’t get past their fear, hatred, and bigotry. I felt so awful for Maya and her family and for anyone else in the world who experiences anything like what they went through in this book. Seeing from Maya’s perspective all of the fears that she has for her loved ones because of the way Muslims are unfairly targeted packed such an emotional punch and it made me all the more angry that our President continues to push his hateful Muslim ban.
I have to admit that I was torn about how much focus there was on romance in this story. Those who read my reviews know I almost always whine about romance taking over the plot of books that have so much else going on in them, and that was my issue here as well. Don’t get me wrong – I loved Phil and I thought he and Maya were super sweet together, but there were several times throughout the book where it felt like Maya was more interested in boys than she was in her film making. That’s fine – people are allowed to be interested in whoever or whatever they want to, but at the same time, I thought she was kind of at that point where she really needed to pick and choose her battles with her parents carefully since there was a good chance she would not win them all. What does she want more – a non-Indian boyfriend or the chance to go away to NYC for college? It didn’t really make me enjoy the story any less, but it did have me shaking my head a couple time and saying “Keep your eye on the prize, Maya!”
I also wish there had been a little more emphasis on the fact that Maya and her family are Muslim. There were a lot of wonderful details about their Indian culture and customs and especially about their delicious foods, but there wasn’t much mention at all about their religious beliefs and how those beliefs figured into their day-to-day lives. I obviously still enjoyed the story even without it, but especially since the book’s synopsis even emphasizes that the main character is Muslim, I think a little more focus on what their religion is like, would have just really rounded out the story well and would have pushed it closer to a five-star rating from me.
Samira Ahmed’s Love, Hate, and Other Filters is a coming of age story that I think many young adults will be able to relate to on a personal level. Being torn between wanting to follow your own dreams while at the same time, not wanting to disappoint your parents is a pretty universal journey that most of us take. Ahmed takes her story to another level by also tackling tough and all too relevant issues like Islamophobia that can make this journey even more difficult for teens like Maya. If you’re in the mood for a read that is both light and fluffy, yet also powerful and hard hitting, I’d definitely recommend Love, Hate, and Other Filters.
A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape–perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.
American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.
There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.