'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Monday 17 December 2018

Review: Love, Hate and Other Filters

Love, Hate and Other Filters is Samira Ahmed's debut novel about 17-year-old Maya Aziz, an American Muslim girl whose Indian-born parents hold traditional views on, well just about everything relating to Maya's teenage life.

What begins as a somewhat light-hearted overview of Maya's 'expected' life (whilst attending a traditional Indian wedding) slowly unfurls to reveal the undertones of being a young Muslim in America today. Maya is intelligent, beautiful and wishes to pursue her lifelong dream of film and cinema studies, something her parents think is just a hobby. They don't know she has secretly been accepted to the most prestigious film school in New York. They want her to become a lawyer and marry an Indian boy.

Maya doesn't want to do things just to please her parents. She's happiest when she's with her best friend Violet, who is independent, supportive and not constrained by anything or with her Aunt Hina who has defied traditional expectations and lives her dream life.

Maya is also confused about her feelings towards Kareem, the Indian college boy and Phil, a fellow senior from school. Should she do what's needed to please her pushy, overbearing mother or follow her heart and aspirations? Maya stands up to her parents and declares her intentions about her future and begins to hope she can follow her dream. But everything is clouded over when a terrorist event takes place and the suspect is initially thought to be Muslim. As the only Muslim family in their small town, Maya and her parents experience fear and reprisal attacks. Her parents place unrealistic demands on Maya out of fear and a misguided sense of protecting her. Maya questions her identity and expectations as well as the injustice of being unfairly associated with terrorists.

A serious incident forces Maya to run and hide from everyone and eventually to stand up for herself at all costs. Maya is determined to live her true life.

Adding brevity to this story is the alternate snapshot-narrative of the white American bomber's life, childhood and possible motives for his crime. By reading this secondary suspense-filled alternate thread from before the actual bombing takes place, I experienced a sense of dread wondering when and where this event would occur.

This story is timely and is delivered in equal parts of light-hearted banter and solemn reflection and clarity about the serious issues facing young Muslims today. Maya's life has various disadvantages, she's female, Muslim with traditional parents and a teenager who wants to live her life without the burden of unrealistic parental expectations weighing heavily on her.
As stated in her author's note, Samira Ahmed wrote this book for all those out there "who bear the brunt of hate, because of the colour of your skin, or the sound of your name ... You are loved. You are enough. Let your light shine. I wrote this book for you."

A sombre, enlightening and memorable read.

Title: Love, Hate and Other Filters
Author: Samira Ahmed
Publisher: Hot Key Books, $19.99
Publication Date: 29 January 2018
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781471407147
For ages: 14+
Type: Young Adult Fiction