Heat Factor: It’s a lovely warm–first bloom of love and all that.
Character Chemistry: At first glance they’re opposites attracting but then it turns out they’re actually quite similar.
Plot: Karina (Myra) is a second generation Bangladeshi teenager dealing with a lot of pressure to succeed within a very narrow set of parameters. When she’s asked to tutor Ace, the school “bad boy”, she’s initially horrified–but she soon discovers that they have way more in common than she thinks…
Overall: This book is actually achingly sweet. It’s a Young Adult, so you’re in for some major teen angst, but in this case that angst is pretty understandable.
I always have to prepare myself for YA romance because I’m reading with my grown-up brain and it doesn’t normally compute very well with idealistic and irrational teenagers. At first, I kind of thought that’s what this one would be like, but it really threw me for a loop once I read on.
Karina’s experience is very raw. She’s both held to very narrow and strict standards but also somewhat dismissed and unseen. She wants to be her own person and knows what she wants outside of those parameters but she knows that being that person would very likely change everything about the way she exists within her family—and while there are a lot of things that chafe about her existence, she understandably isn’t willing to risk the things she does love about her family. For her, she knows that if she pushes her family to choose between accepting her as she is or abandoning her, they may very well choose to abandon her. And that’s terrifying.
Ace is in a prison of his own making, really. His family split apart years before, and because of a failure in communication, Ace has essentially isolated himself from everyone in order to protect himself from feeling hurt. His brother has taken out a lot of his anger and sadness on Ace in a really vengeful and harsh way, and Ace has zero interest in engaging. So while he has a reputation for being a “bad boy”, he’s actually a very sweet kid who plays piano like a master and loves astronomy. What he needs is someone to believe in him—an anchor—and Karina is that person.
What I loved about this book is how, beyond the sweeping teenage gestures and extensive time spent agonizing over every little interaction that comes with a Young Adult romance, we’re looking at two people who are bravely carving a place for themselves in their own lives after spending years trying to just float along trying to please people at their own expense.
One thing that made this book really beautiful is that with Karina, her struggles are so balanced and nuanced. I loved that the solace and peace she found in her Muslim faith, but she was also honest about the parts of being a Muslim immigrant that weren’t easy for her. She LOVES her family, but she can see very clearly that the way she exists in her family is hurting her—and that it won’t change without loss and pain. She loves who she is and she loves her life, but she wants more—more options, more freedom. Some of it is part of being a teenager, but in her case it’s more than that. And I just found the way the author unpacked her situation to be very thoughtful and tenderly done.
Karina and Ace’s love story is kind of like a chemical reaction, and neither one is the same after they’ve fallen in love—which is kind of uncomfortable and wonderful for both of them. And it’s adorable.
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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