How it all blew up

Arvin Ahmadi

Book - 2020

Fleeing to Rome in the wake of coming out to his Muslim family, a failed relationship, and blackmail, eighteen-year-old Amir Azadi embarks on a more authentic life with new friends and dates in the Sistine Chapel before an encounter with a U.S. Customs officer places his hard-won freedom at risk.

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New York : Viking 2020.
Physical Description
271 pages ; 22 cm
Main Author
Arvin Ahmadi (author)
Review by Booklist Review

Iranian American Amir is in crisis. The deeply closeted 18-year-old is being blackmailed for thousands of dollars by a bully in his high school threatening to out Amir to his parents. When the bully then threatens to do the deed during their graduation ceremony, Amir flees--first to New York and then to Rome. Amir's fear is exacerbated by his belief that being Iranian and gay is as incompatible as Amish culture and Apple products. Keeping his whereabouts a secret, Amir is fortunate to make gay friends quickly, friends who become his surrogate family. But what will happen if his real family learns where he is? Ahmadi, who is himself Iranian American, does an excellent job of taking readers into a culture that is much less than friendly to gays while creating a relatable circle of new friends who care about and support Amir. A fully realized, deeply sympathetic character, Amir tells his own story in the first person voice, in the tradition of Iranian storytellers. The result is compelling.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

To avoid being outed as gay to his conservative Muslim parents, Iranian American Amir Azadi, 18, skips his high school graduation and impulsively flees to Rome, embarking on a month of parties, poetry, and dreamy crushes. Once in Italy, Amir befriends a close-knit group of young gay men, including effervescent Jahan, an Iranian-Dominican poet who helps Amir envision how he can proudly live as his whole self. Eventually, Amir must return to America, and after a family argument about Amir's sexuality escalates on the plane, the visibly Muslim Azadi family is temporarily detained. Amir's first-person narrative is framed by transcripts of each family member's interrogation at the airport, enabling Ahmadi (Girl Gone Viral) to switch perspectives and expand the novel's emotional landscape. This moving and well-written coming-of-age novel renders how Amir's acceptance of his sexuality strengthens his resolve to reconcile his fragmented self and live in his full truth. Ages 14--up. (Sept.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up--"First let me get one thing straight: I'm not a terrorist. I'm gay." So begins this fast-paced coming out/coming-of-age/coming home story. Amir Azadi keeps a mental scorecard weighing the odds of rejection if his parents learn he's gay. He's decided to wait until college to start real life. Then the blackmail starts, and suddenly Amir has skipped graduation and hopped a plane to Rome. This isn't the full plot--it's barely the premise, and the whole story is told via monologue: The answers given by Amir and his family during questioning by Customs and Border Protection. Readers must accept that the airport interrogation is not where the drama lies either, but rather a clever frame, contrasting the unspoken and serious assumptions that put Amir's family in airport jail with the idiosyncratic, sometimes ridiculous, and always complex truths of who they really are. The interview transcripts cover Amir's arrival in Italy, his adoption by a group of gay men in their thirties, and the series of poor romantic decisions that immediately precede his return. Among these friends is Jahan, also of Iranian descent, who awards Amir points every time he learns about gay icons or queer culture. As Amir's Persian and gay identities start to feel like an asset, he's no longer willing to hide who he is. VERDICT A funny and propulsive read, nuanced and full of heart.--Miriam DesHarnais, Towson Univ., Baltimore

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

As an Iranian American Muslim teen, Amir Azadi has long pondered what it would be like to come out to his parents. In fact, he keeps a mental tally of all the positive and negative comments his parents make about gay people. But everything comes crashing down when school bullies photograph Amir kissing Jackson, the football player he's been secretly dating. They give Amir an ultimatum: $1,000 in hush money or they will show his parents the photo. On the brink of emotional collapse, Amir runs away, landing in Rome, where he meets Jahan, a proudly gay Iranian/Dominican man, and his eclectic friends. Amir embraces the newfound freedom to be himself and experience the joys of gay culture and community. But as his family desperately searches for him and relationships with his new friends become complicated, he finds himself missing home and feels the fear of being out ebb away. The story moves back and forth in time between these events and the airport interrogation room where, following a family altercation on the plane home, Amir tells his coming-out story to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer. The narrative structure will keep readers riveted as they try to piece together events. Ahmadi's writing is gripping, taking readers through the myriad emotions a gay Muslim teen experiences growing up in a country whose government is looking for an excuse to demonize Muslims. A story of coming out and coming-of-age in a post--9/11 world. (Fiction. 14-18) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.