Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)
*I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*
Zayneb is sent packing to Qatar after confronting her Islamophobic teacher, and while her parents hope her early trip will do her some good, she doesn’t anticipate meeting Adam. Adam’s shouldering a secret that he fears will break his family apart. With nothing in common but a journal of Marvel and Oddities, destiny means little to Zayneb, but it seems like it’s working its hardest to keep them on the same path.
This book has so much brilliance packed into it, and I honestly don’t know where to start.
Zayneb is a headstrong lead, who comes across quite bitter at first glance. But I felt for her and saw myself in her in every way possible. When I was younger, I was very much like her: constantly angry at the prejudice, racism and Islamophobia in the world. She doesn’t know how to stay down quietly, and I admire that. I was never brilliantly outspoken the way she is, but her anger at the world is so relatable. Her story is remarkably lifelike and is an excellent portrayal of what it is like to be visibly Muslim today.
Then comes Adam, sweet, amazing Adam. He’s returning home after dropping out of university when he discovered that he has multiple sclerosis like his mother. Except he isn’t ready to tell his family his diagnosis because he doesn’t want them to suffer. Adam is so genuine and caring and thoughtful that you literally can’t help but love him. He wants the best for everyone around him, and his struggles and wins are so beautifully done.
Both of them keep their most profound thoughts locked away in the same journal, inspired by The Marvels of Creation and the Oddities of Existence, that unknowingly leads them on, what you could say is a marvellous and odd adventure. They’re so different from each other, and I loved how Ali made them work. They argue and disagree at times, but they eventually learn to understand each other. They both struggle with their expectations of themselves which creates some communication issues. But they realise their separate struggles don’t invalidate the other and the more they run into each other, the more they begin to understand each other.
There’re so many layers to this story, within Zayneb and Adam themselves and the people around them. Their friendship group is a nod towards the diversity of the Ummah and reminds people that there isn’t one type of Muslim and shows how ethnically diverse we all are. There’s a real discussion of heavy subjects like war, conflict and mistreatment.
Also, that Saints and Misfits reference killed me. I almost missed it, but my mind did the biggest double take.
Overall, Love From A to Z was gloriously refreshing. Saints and Misfit created a new love for Ali’s writing for me, but this book cemented S.K. Ali as a forever favourite. I’ve been eager to find to a romance story between Muslims characters that isn’t overly stereotypical. And this book hits every mark.