This is Arvin Ahmadi’s third novel for the young adult market and the one he says is the most personal. An Iranian family have an argument on a plane coming from Italy and are taken for interrogation when they land in their American homeland. This is the story, largely from the interrogation room of what they were doing in Italy and what the argument was all about.
Amir is a seemingly quite well off 18 year old who is reluctant to share his sexuality with his Muslim family. When a homophobic bully plans to out him Amir runs away and spends a summer in Rome where he learns a lot about himself and the importance of family.
The plot is simple yet very effective. Some of the texts intended to support the young adult LGBTQ+ market feature characters who overpower the work. I did not feel this about Amir who seems very authentic and would appeal (rather than intimidate) those who are experiencing similar issues. He is, however, extremely fortunate in the choices he makes and the people he meets. This could have been a very different story from the life-enhancing tale that Ahmadi relates.
The oral tradition of story-telling is, we are told on a number of occasions in this book, very important in Iranian culture and it feels appropriate that Amir gets his chance to relate his experiences in this way even if it is to a largely silent interrogation officer. There are a lot of issues here from the Muslim’s family viewpoint towards homosexuality and self-esteem issues to the fine line that needs to be trodden to prevent motives being misjudged. These are all handled well written in a very likeable account of a memorable summer.
I’ve sometimes been a little wary of the YA titles I’ve recommended probably because the world has moved on so much since I was a young adult but I know that I would have loved this book in my teenage years and I think there is a large audience out here for this. It has a wider than young adult appeal and many firmly into adulthood would find it an involving and satisfying read.
How It All Blew Up will be published in the UK by Hot Key on 22nd September 2020. Many thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for the advance review copy.