For What It's Worth

For What It's Worth

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Review: Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian

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. ~ Goodreads

Source: Library – audiobook

Like a Love Story = Heartbreaking. An issue book. Angsty. Bittersweet.

These are all things I HATE in my reading life. Without a doubt this book broke me & made me cry. Twice. And I hated the feeling. I like to escape and be happy when I read. Solid HEA’s only please. But I loved this book so, so, so much anyway.

Set in the late 80’s against the backdrop of the AIDS epidemic with the music of Madonna as a catalyst, Like a Love Story is the stunning coming of age story of three teens caught in a complicated relationship dynamic.

Art, an out and proud gay boy, and his best friend Judy, an aspiring fashion designer with an uncle dying from AIDS, meet Reza – the new Iranian boy. Reza is terrified of his feelings for Art (& of AIDS) and ends up dating Judy.

I know! I know! You’re all like - a love triangle!! I hate teen angst! But this book is not that. Well, okay it is, but it has so many layers – and layers within the layers.

I remember 1989 and the AIDS crisis vividly;  ACT UP, the die-ins, the AIDS memorial quilt being unfurled on the National Mall, Ryan White. This book perfectly captures the fear and desperation as the LGBQT community, literally, fought for their own lives. But also offers levity and hope with the pop culture references as well as a timeless coming of age tale & enduring friendships.

Nazemian so brilliantly captures the era, the activism, the fear, the death, the LOVE, the intimacy, the pop culture all at once without ever skipping a beat. It’s all done so seamlessly. Family, by birth and found, also feature prominently.

The characters are flawed, and disappointing at times, but totally true to who they are and when the author ties it all back together with a bittersweet ending – it’s not with a tidy bow - but with something better. Something real. Something lasting. Something hopeful even in it’s sadness. All three protagonist's have such distinctive voices and play effortlessly off each other even if it’s painful at times. This is a messy, messy story but felt so realistic.

I know this review doesn’t make a whole lot of sense – because I never do well with reviews for my 5 star books but I highly recommend this book if you love flawed, but realistic characters, want to learn more about queer history, love pop culture (specifically queer pop culture), and love strong friendships that stand the test of time.

I listened to this one on audio and the three narrators were FANTASTIC (Lauren Ambrose – Judy), Vikas Adam – Reza (& Uncle Stephen in short passages about LGBQT+ history/figures), Michael Crouch – Art.

*For a more coherent review – this one I found on Goodreads is excellent.

*And if you loved this book - please give the TV series Pose a try. Set in the same era against the back drop of ball culture, it follows a lot of the same themes.

35 comments:

  1. Ohh this sounds like my jam. I knowwww. I hate angst, too. But sometimes, a good release is what's needed. I also like books set in the 80s and 90s, so there's that.

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    1. It's not all sad but it is intense. I think it totally fit this book and these characters though. It was a really beautiful story.

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  2. So good, I am glad I gave it a go. What was it, a person died every 12th minute just shook me

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    1. And I loved Vikas narrating this time!!!! lol

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  3. I would read this for the era because I was 16 in 1989 and I am sure I can relate to what is going on in the story. I will see if I can get it reserved at the library. I can’t ignore a five star review.

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    1. I got married in 89 lol but I think this book captured the era (especially from a queer perspective) well

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  4. Oh, I definitely have to read this now. Seems heartbreaking but also brilliant!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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  5. I was the same age as these characters in 1989, so I remember the time vividly, and lIke you, I though Nazemian did an incredible job capturing the time period. I loved how he made me feel the gravity of what was going on, but also allowed me to have those happy moments with the teen characters.

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    1. I graduated from HS in 83' got married in 89" but I remember ALL of this. He did a brilliant job!

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  6. Ah, it can definitely be so hard to read emotional books. And especially if that is not why you read. But despite that, I am still glad you were able to really love this book, it's characters and its messages. It is getting so many popular reviews that I know I need to read this one too! Great review x

    Olivia-S @ Olivia's Catastrophe

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    1. It struck the right balance for me between sad but hopefully and realistic to the characters.

      I can't read too many in a row like this - or I'll be sad all the time lol but it was worth it.

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  7. Really enjoyable review! I remember the scary advertising health campaigns about AIDS in the 80's that scared kids all over Britain. That was when rumours about catching it from toilet seats and shaking hands was going around. I'd love to see more of my favourite genres going to 80's settings as I loved the music and pop culture then.

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    1. Yes! And that's kind of what this story is about. One of the characters is gay but terrified that even a touch will get him killed. I also remember people starting to wear gloves everywhere just in case you touched a bleeding person.

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  8. I have a hard time listening to audio reads because I usually fall asleep(lol), but I adore reading about flawed and deep characters. Sometimes it can be painful, but I feel like I still get something from the story and the people involved. Glad you liked it so much! Hugs, RO

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    1. Oh audiobooks...lol They've been hard for me but I'm finally coming around. I get so distracted!

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  9. I think your review is wonderful for this one. It tells me that I'd probably enjoy reading the book but that I really don't want to read it, lol. I
    'm all for the happy endings and no tears. Bittersweet hurts my happy.

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    1. TOTALLY agree!! That's why I'm surprised I loved it so much. But I can only read one or two books a year like this. I get sad for weeks after. Although, it wasn't a sad ending - just not a HEA type one.

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  10. Wow this does sound heartbreaking and messy and all that good stuff. I remember that time too and it was SO different then. At the same time I think books and movies that show the 80's/ early 90's sometimes caricature it a bit- I mean it gets over the top?- so when a book captures it right that's a good thing.

    Great review Karen!

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    1. I think we tend to look back on certain era's fondly - and just the fun, pop culture/clothes and not some of the more serious things. This book did a good job balancing them all.

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  11. I really, really want to read this. It's tough when books break your heart, but those often up being some of my favorites. I'm glad you really loved this one! I kept meaning to watch Pose, as I've seen and loved the documentary Paris is Burning.

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. Pose is another one of those I hate that it makes me feel things lol You MUST read this book though Lauren!!

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  12. I've been curious about this one ever since I saw an Epic Reads video about it. The time period, the subject matter... it definitely draws me in. But as soon as I you mentioned that Michael Crouch is one of the narrators... BOOM. I am so there. I adore Crouch's narrating and that right there has me sold. (And it's kind of funny that Lauren Ambrose narrates because I haven't thought about her in years and yet yesterday I was watching a clip of Can't Hardly Wait and it was the part with her and Kenny stuck in the bathroom. LOL)

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    1. I'm so new to audiobooks that I don't know narrators all that well but all three were fantastic for this one.

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  13. I love that you hate that this book made you feel (and cry twice!) but you loved it anyway. I've seen this one on a couple of blogs and it honestly sounds like an emotional gut punch that is well worth the read. I really want to have a chance to read this so fingers crossed I can borrow it from the library.

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    1. Yeah, I don't like being sad lol But it's not just sad! there's lots of wonderful, hopeful things too.

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  14. That sounds like such an emotional book. I hadn't heard of it before.

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  15. You made me want to read this and also avoid it like the plague. Like you, I've been reading a lot of HAPPY books! It's good for my brain and heart. Unfortunately, books like this can also be worth reading, even at the expense of my happiness and heart. What to do?! I don't know!

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear? 💬

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    1. It is sad but also happy. It covers so much ground and totally worth the possible emotional upheaval lol

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  16. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I kept skipping over this book because I thought it was straight up Romance. I want to read it now. 👍✨

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    1. It has romance and it's the main part of the book but not in the traditional sense. Vague, I know, but it was so good.

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  17. Wow, this sounds like a really incredible book. And I remember that time so vividly, too. There was so much happening politically, but the AIDS crisis was everywhere. Thanks so much for sharing this review. Will have to check it out <3

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    1. It was an amazing story and told really well.

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