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YA Review: Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian

Title: Like a Love Story

AuthorAbdi Nazemian

Year Published: 2019

Category: YA fiction (romance, LGBTQ)
Pages: 439
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2021 Google Reading map) USA (NY, MD)

Summary (from Amazon): It’s 1989 in New York City, and for three teens, the world is changing.

Reza is an Iranian boy who has just moved to the city with his mother to live with his stepfather and stepbrother. He’s terrified that someone will guess the truth he can barely acknowledge about himself. Reza knows he’s gay, but all he knows of gay life are the media’s images of men dying of AIDS.

Judy is an aspiring fashion designer who worships her uncle Stephen, a gay man with AIDS who devotes his time to activism as a member of ACT UP. Judy has never imagined finding romance...until she falls for Reza and they start dating.

Art is Judy’s best friend, their school’s only out and proud teen. He’ll never be who his conservative parents want him to be, so he rebels by documenting the AIDS crisis through his photographs.

As Reza and Art grow closer, Reza struggles to find a way out of his deception that won’t break Judy’s heart—and destroy the most meaningful friendship he’s ever known.

Review: Even though this book is over 400 pages, I needed a lighter read after finishing an intense chunkster book for a TLC tour (it will be posted next week) so I chose this one and it turns out "lighter" isn't exactly the right word for it. However, one thing about this read is that it isn't dark and depressing. So, while it deals with heavy issues, there is also a positivity to it.

1989 is a year I remember as is the height of the AIDS epidemic and the thrill of Madonna's music and impact on pop culture so this book's setting resonated with me. I loved the references to songs I danced to as well as those to political issues such as Reagan not using the word AIDS while it ravaged pockets of our population and killed people we cared about. I guess I am lucky that only 2 people I cared about died of the disease, but others lost dozens of loved ones and friends. 
This book is more than it's setting. It is also about friendship, love, creating a community, and being brave enough to be who you are in the face of adversity and hatred from those around you. The "family" that is created in this book is wonderful and shows that the family we make beyond our blood relatives is just as important, that first love is intense and often fleeting, and that honoring those we care about matters.

This is a beautifully written book and the author's note at the end explaining how the timeline mirrors his own explains how he got so many of the details right.

Challenges for which this counts:
  • Big Book Summer
  • Children's historical--AIDS epidemic of 1980s
  • Diversity--LGBTQ; characters and author of color (June challenge)
  • Historical--AIDS epidemic of 1980s

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