Review: Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Image of book cover from Goodreads
Image of book cover from Goodreads

Title: Love, Hate and Other Filters

Author: Samira Ahmed

Category: YA Contemporary

Publisher/Date: Soho Teen/16 January 2018

Edition: ebook



Barnes and Noble:

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.

This book has content warnings for racism (not condoned), Islamophobia (not condoned), terrorism, and physical assault.

Love, Hate and Other Filters took my heart out of my chest. I could not think about any other books for days after reading this one — not nearly as deeply anyways. This was such a strong book, and the beautiful writing left me craving Samira Ahmed’s next one.

What really sold me about this book was the complexity with which Maya and her parents were written. Maya herself is a rather non-conservative Indian Muslim teenager who isn’t fully invested in tradition and wants to forge her own path by going to film school in New York for college. At the same time, she really cares about what her parents think and worries a lot about whether she’ll be disappointing them. Her parents are much more conservative Muslims who immigrated to the United States, and they themselves are struggling with their own identities because they immigrated to get away from certain strict traditions and yet others are core to their beliefs and being. They really struggle with how much of their traditions they want to impose on Maya because they want her to be more traditional like they are, but at the same time they know that she is a person who wants to make her own life, like they did when they immigrated.

There was no doubt in my mind that Maya and her parents deeply cared for each other. I don’t think that the decisions either of them made were easy ones; Maya wanted to please them, but at the same time she didn’t want to live her life for them — she wanted to live it for herself. After the terrorism incident and the targeting the three of them went through, it’s also understandable that keeping Maya safe was a top priority for her parents. Neither point of view was presented as more right than the other; there are thoughts of regret and sadness that come into play after their interactions, and they do come to understand each other somewhat. I really loved how her parents weren’t demonized; it felt like they were being unfair at times, but Maya did come to understand why they were the way they were. They weren’t blamed; they weren’t blameless, but it wasn’t all placed on their shoulders. I really admired this, and I think Ahmed did a great job of making these characters feel well-rounded.

I also really loved seeing Maya struggling with some parts of her identity while still being secure in others. She LOVES film — it’s a core part of her being. It’s a passion that transcends every part of her life, and it’s something that she can’t live without. I loved her confidence when it came to her craft; she knew that it was what she wanted, beyond a shadow of a doubt. At the same time, she struggled with herself as a Muslim teen, as an Indian teen, and as an American teen, and figuring out how her identities worked together was a struggle for her. There was so much complexity and depth in her character, and I loved seeing her be so sure about something when large parts of the rest of her were seemingly falling apart.

The terrorism aspects are heavy in this book — Maya and her parents face real threats and real danger after a terrorism attack happens elsewhere in the country, and it’s heavy and scary. The heavy elements of the book also paired nicely with the lighter aspects like the romance in the book and Maya’s relationships with her best friend and her free-spirited aunt. There was a complexity in the tone that I really loved; it had a lot of depth to it that really made the book special.

I know it’s only the start of February, but this is one of my favorite books of 2018 so far. It’s close to my heart, and I am so happy that I got to read it.

Final rating: 5 of 5 stars

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