Oh, my God.
I can’t even describe how much I loved this book. I wasn’t positive I’d be as engrossed as I’d like to be, because I usually read fantasy, but once I saw a quote from Aisha Saeed (author of Written in the Stars) on the cover, I was sold. Written in the Stars is one of those books that I’ll always remember because it touched my soul. And also made me sob a little. No shame.
So, fast-forward to when I sat down to read this book. I was fairly interested by page two or so, because Samira Ahmed dove right in with plenty of characterization and plot — but not too much. Just enough to draw the reader in quickly without much drama. The setting is an Indian wedding, a perfect place to provide characterization and context.
The rest of the book didn’t disappoint. Discounting the more grave parts of the plot, it was a nicely-written window into the life of an Indian Muslim teenager in small-town America. As a Jewish white woman, I’m not an expert on Indian Muslim culture, but Samira Ahmed was born in Bombay, India and grew up in Batavia, Illinois. Basically, this is a story taken from parts of Ahmed’s own life. Since I’m not an expert, I’m always wary of people who write books outside of their own culture and get facts wrong, but I don’t need to worry about that with Love, Hate & Other Filters, which is nice. It’s especially nice for POC readers who don’t often get to read about Indian or Muslim main characters.
In an interview with Writer’s Block Party, Ahmed actually says that this story is set in a “fictionalized version” of her hometown, and that she based much of the setting on real places. It seems that Maya, the main character, was partially pulled from real life as well. Ahmed says that she was inspired to write Maya’s story because of Islamophobia she faced in real life, and Maya’s love of film comes from her own admiration of documentaries.
Ahmed’s real-life inspiration comes through beautifully in Love, Hate & Other Filters, and a seemingly simple story had me emotionally invested. I would highly recommend this book to anyone.