Since I can’t speak to this book as well as someone who’s lived this life, I’m sharing a few reviews I’ve read on Goodreads for you. I hope this helps bring more understanding, but I encourage everyone to read this book. It made me cry and made me think and really made me want to read whatever Abdi Nazemian publishes next.
Book Reviews by Own Voices (pulled from Goodreads)
Where do I even begin? I started this book on Thursday and ended up spending almost my entire Friday reading it. I couldn’t put it down and I just wanted to read more.
The story is about three kids, Reza, Judy, and Art. Reza is a newly minted American by way of Toronto and Tehran. In Iran, being gay wasn’t something people knew anything about. All Reza knew is that he liked boys. That’s it. But the moment he steps off the plane in Toronto and sees the headlines, the first thing he sees is news about AIDS. He sees that it’s affecting the gay communities. He ingrains in himself that being gay means getting AIDS and dying a horrible death. So when he first starts going to school and meets Judy and Art for the first time, he denies the emotions he feels for Art and dates Judy instead.
Of course everything comes out. Judy finds out about Reza. Reza shares his real feelings for Art. Judy hates Art for betraying their friendship and dating someone she had feelings for. Then they make up and become friends again at the end of the novel. But to say that that is the gist of the novel wouldn’t be doing it justice.
The book is richly complex sharing the history of the LGBTQ community in New York City during the height of the AIDS crisis. It was absolutely brilliant. Abdi’s writing is subtle and easy to read. It’s a YA, so the book does carry its tropes but it doesn’t get in the way of the powerful messages coming across. I absolutely love how Abdi chose to show you how AIDS affects his characters, side characters like Stephen and Jimmy were the faces of the epidemic and this book wouldn’t have been good without them.
Judy’s uncle, Stephen, has AIDS. His partner died from the disease. His friends keep dying from the disease and slowly he’ll find himself in that same position. Every piece of media I’ve exposed myself to regarding the AIDS era has moved me in some way. Mostly because watching the devastation of thousands of innocent people die from a terrible disease will make you question things. Things like “why didn’t anyone do anything sooner?” “Why did we make it difficult for them?” “Why did they all have to die in such a painful and completely undeserved way?”
But from everything I’ve watched or read be it RENT or Philadelphia or Paris is Burning or Angels in America, I also learned that people can transcend. Which is what I think about when I think of Uncle Stephen and his causes in this book. He was dying. He was watching his friends and loved ones die. He saw his partner die. Throughout it all, he demanded justice. He fought for what was right and if I could go back in time and be a bit older than I was at the time (I was 4), I would have fought too. He saw less of himself as a dying man, but as a dying man who will use every ounce of energy and breath in his body to fight for cheaper drugs, better testing, and more drugs.
The story is also about sexual identity. Reza dates Judy to hide himself from everyone. He was so afraid of himself and somehow catching AIDS that he tried to push that deep down. That particular shame was probably the most interesting point in this novel especially as a YA book. I’ve read books Simon vs The Homo-sapiens Agenda and in that book, coming out almost feels magical. But this book felt real. Obviously, I can’t talk to this subject because I’m cis-gendered female, but I hope people read Like a Love Story and can see a part of themselves and their own personal journeys within Reza and Art.
But I think the most important thing this book is about is love. Love for yourself. Love for others. Love for people you may not fully understand but you accept them and love them for who they are. Love for Madonna! Love for your family. Love for the family you make. If you gather anything from this novel, it’s that love is the key. As quoted in the book “hate is just fear in drag.”
I received a copy of this book from BookSparks for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.