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Review: LOVE, HATE & OTHER FILTERS by Samira Ahmed

Review:  LOVE, HATE & OTHER FILTERS by Samira AhmedLove, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
four-stars
Published by Soho Teen on January 16th 2018
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 281
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

MY REVIEW:

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.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

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.

four-stars

About Samira Ahmed

SAMIRA AHMED was born in Bombay, India, and grew up in Batavia, Illinois, in a house that smelled like fried onions, spices, and potpourri. She currently resides in the Midwest. She’s lived in Vermont, New York City, and Kauai, where she spent a year searching for the perfect mango.

A graduate of the University of Chicago, she taught high school English for seven years, worked to create over 70 small high schools in New York City, and fought to secure billions of additional dollars to fairly fund public schools throughout New York State. She’s appeared in the New York Times, New York Daily News, Fox News, NBC, NY1, NPR, and on BBC Radio. Her creative non-fiction and poetry has appeared in Jaggery Lit, Entropy, the Fem, and Claudius Speaks.

Her writing is represented by Eric Smith of P.S. Literary.

Book Review: When Dimple Met Rishi

Book Review:  When Dimple Met RishiWhen Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Also by this author: From Twinkle, with Love
four-stars
Published by Simon Pulse on May 30th 2017
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 380
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon
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MY REVIEW:

I was looking for a light contemporary read for my day off and when I read the synopsis for Sandhya Menon’s When Dimple Met Rishi, it sounded exactly like what I was looking for.  And what a cute read it was! It’s fun, romantic in an adorably nerdy kind of way, and it also focuses a lot on family, especially the drama that can arise when children have hopes and dreams that are at odds with what their parents want for them.

Dimple Shah is a career-minded young woman.  She has just graduated from high school and plans to attend Stanford University in the fall, where she will study web development and coding.  She can’t wait to move out and get away from her overbearing mother, who is obsessed with finding Dimple the “Ideal Indian Husband” and is constantly criticizing Dimple for not wearing makeup, for not doing more with her hair, and for, just in general, not doing more to attract the ideal husband.  Dimple desperately wants a break from her mom’s nagging and knows what would make for a perfect means to escape, if her parents will go along with the idea: a summer program at San Francisco State University for aspiring web developers.  Dimple doesn’t think her parents will go for the idea, but when she broaches the subject with them, they’re all for it so off Dimple goes to SFSU.

Rishi Patel is also college-bound.  He will be attending MIT, a prestigious university that is sure to secure him a lucrative career.  Rishi is also a hopeless romantic who embraces the idea of arranged marriages.  He knows that his parents have selected an ideal candidate to be his future wife, and so he is 100% on board when they tell him that he can meet her if he attends a summer camp at SFSU.

Who is this ideal candidate?  Why, Dimple of course, which explains why her parents were so quick to agree to her attending this summer camp.  What a plan these parents have come up with!  Too bad no one thought to clue Dimple in.  When she arrives at campus, she is immediately accosted by some weird guy who greets her as his future bride.  Talk about awkward!  Dimple flings an iced coffee all over Rishi and runs off, afraid that he’s some kind of crazy stalker dude.  Things take a turn for the even more awkward when Dimple and Rishi are then assigned to be partners for the duration of the camp and have to work on a project together.

Will Dimple be so put off by what her parents have set her up for that she refuses to make nice with Rishi, or will Rishi be able to win her over?

LIKES

Dimple and Rishi.  These two are such likeable characters.  At first I wasn’t super crazy about Dimple because she was so rude when it came to pretty much anything her mom said. I just kept thinking ‘Be nice. She’s the only momma you’ve got.”  At the same time though, I could completely understand her frustration.  When you’re heart set on pursuing a career, and a good career at that, it’s got to be a kick in the head having your mom so focused on you “improving” your appearance so that you can bag the ideal husband.

Although it took me some time to warm up to Dimple, with Rishi, on the other hand, it was love at first sight.  He’s just this precious young man who is totally into his heritage and who also wants to make his parents happy. I just wanted to give him a hug when he came bounding up to Dimple, like an enthusiastic puppy, only to end up shot down and drenched in iced coffee.  Rishi, of course, has no idea that Dimple has been left in the dark about the whole arranged marriage idea, but as soon as he realizes she’s at the camp for her career and that she has no interest whatsoever in making a love connection while there, Rishi apologizes and is even willing to withdraw from the camp and go home to make things less awkward for Dimple so that she can focus on what she came to learn.  How can you not fall for a guy who is willing to do that?

Nerds!  I also loved that both of them are basically awkward nerdy types.  Dimple’s into coding, and Rishi, even though he’s going to MIT, which is nerdy enough on its own, also has a secret passion – he loves to draw comics and is exceptionally gifted at it too.  Books that feature nerdy characters are my favorites, so this was just perfect for me.

Diversity.  If you’re looking for a great diverse read, When Dimple Met Rishi fits that bill as well since the two main characters are both Indian Americans. I liked that many aspects of Indian culture were presented and that they were worked into the story in a way that flowed very naturally in conversations like one between Dimple and Rishi where Rishi explains to Dimple why he embraces the idea of an arranged marriage.  I just loved Rishi talking about why so many Indian traditions are important to him.  It’s nice to see a young person who sees the value in heritage and tradition, and he seems to open up Dimple’s eyes to aspects of her own culture that she had paid little attention to as a child.

DISLIKES/ISSUES

My only real issue was the subplot with Rishi’s brother.  It just felt unnecessary since the main purpose the brother served in the story was to help explain why Rishi feels so strongly about not ever disappointing his parents.  He’s trying to make up for his brother’s behavior.  That’s not to say his brother is a bad kid.  It’s just that Rishi’s brother does whatever he wants, whenever he wants, whether it makes their parents happy or not.  Beyond that, his character wasn’t really developed too much more. I actually can’t even remember his name as I’m sitting here typing my review, so I think the story would have worked even better without him showing up at the university and inserting himself into the plot.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

If you’re looking for a fun and diverse summer read that’s delightfully nerdy and contains a hint of romantic possibility, you’ll definitely want to check out When Dimple Met Rishi.

 

RATING:  4 STARS

 

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

four-stars

About Sandhya Menon

Sandhya Menon is the New York Times bestselling author of When Dimple Met Rishi, From Twinkle, With Love, and There’s Something About Sweetie. A full-time dog servant and part-time writer, she makes her home in the foggy mountains of Colorado.