Love from A to Z
by Ali, S. K.

Eighteen-year-old Muslims Adam and Zayneb meet in Doha, Qatar, during spring break and fall in love as both struggle to find a way to live their own truths.

S. K. Ali is the author of Saints and Misfits, a finalist for the American Library Association's 2018 William C. Morris Award and the winner of the APALA Honor Award and Middle East Book Honor Award; and Love from A to Z, a Today show's Read with Jenna Book Club selection. Both novels were named best YA books of the year by various media including Entertainment Weekly and Kirkus Reviews. You can find Sajidah online at, and follow her on Instagram @SKAlibooks and on Twitter at @SajidahWrites.

Ali follows up her well-received debut, Saints and Misfits (2017), with an epistolary novel in journal entries about two teenagers chronicling the marvels and oddities in their lives. It's senior year, and with her friends and a stealthy online movement, Zayneb has made it her mission to take down her Islamophobic teacher. But when her drawing is misconstrued, Zayneb is suspended from school and leaves for Doha, Qatar, to visit her auntie a week ahead of spring break. There she crosses paths with Adam, the cute guy who happened to be on her flight. He's Muslim, too, and he's carrying a secret: he's just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but he hasn't told his father and sister. The story lilts between Adam's and Zayneb's perspectives, and through their narratives, Ali fleshes out the plucky Zayneb, who stands up to the microaggressions and prejudices around her, and pragmatic Adam, whose voice conveys the uncertainty of his future. Ali skillfully fashions a love story sensitive to the rules of Muslim courtship that's equally achy and enigmatic. Grades 9-12. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

Zayneb is an 18-year-old hijabi from Indiana-and she was just suspended for standing up to her Islamophobic teacher. Now she's on her way to Doha to spend two weeks with her cool aunt Nandy and forget about her troubles at school. On the flight, Zayneb meets Adam, who converted to Islam at age 11 after his mom-Auntie Nandy's best friend-died from multiple sclerosis. Enamored with each other, Adam and Zayneb begin to share their life stories: Adam is keeping a huge secret from his father and sister, Zayneb hasn't shared with her aunt why she's been suspended, and both are mourning loved ones. Slowly, they fall in love, but their different experiences of dealing with racism and pain threaten to drive them apart. The novel's dual narrative structure uses raw, earnest journal entries to guide readers through the painful realities of the Islamophobia and racism that permeate all levels of society. Zayneb's story shows how the smallest incidents have trickle-down effects that dehumanize Muslims and devalue Muslim lives in some people's eyes. This is a refreshing depiction of religiosi ty and spirituality coexisting with so-called "normal" young adult relationships and experiences: What makes Zayneb and Adam different is not their faith but their ability to learn from and love one another in a world hurling obstacles their way. Zayneb is half Pakistani and half West Indian; Adam is Canadian of Chinese and Finnish descent. Heartfelt and powerful. (Fiction. 13-18) Copyright Kirkus 2019 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

1. Marvel: Two Saturdays in March

ON THE MORNING OF SATURDAY, March 14, fourteen-year-old Adam Chen went to the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha.

A thirteenth-century drawing of a tree caught his gaze. It wasn’t particularly striking or artistic. He didn’t know why this tree caused him to stride forward as if magnetized. (When he thinks about it now, his guess is thus: Trees were kind of missing in the landscape he found himself in at the time, and so he was hungry for them.)

Once he got close, he was rewarded with the name of the manuscript that housed this simple tree sketch: The Marvels of Creation and the Oddities of Existence.

He stood there thinking about this grand title for a long moment.

Then something clicked in his mind: Maybe that’s what living is—recognizing the marvels and oddities around you.

From that day, he vowed to record the marvels he knew to be true and the oddities he wished weren’t.

Adam, being Adam, found himself marveling more than ruminating on the weird bits of existing.

We pick up his Marvels and Oddities journal on March 7, four years after that Saturday at the Museum of Islamic Art.

Eighteen now, Adam is a freshman in college, but it’s important to know that he has stopped going to classes two months ago.

He has decided to live.

On the very late evening of Saturday, March 11, sixteen-year-old Zayneb Malik clicked on a link in her desperation to finish a project. She’d promised a Muslim Clothing Through the Ages poster for the Islamic History Fair at the mosque, and it was due in nine hours, give or take a few hours of sleep.

Perhaps it was because of the late hour, but the link was oddly intriguing to a girl looking for thirteenth-century hijab styles: Al-Qazwini’s Catalogue of Life as It Existed in the Islamic World, 1275 AD.

The link opened to an ancient book.

The Marvels of Creation and the Oddities of Existence.

A description of the book followed, but Zayneb could not read on.

“Marvels” and “oddities” perfectly described the reality of her life right then.

The next day, after returning from the history fair (and taking a nap), she began a journal and kept it going for the next two years, recording the wonders and thorns in the garden of her life.

Zayneb, being Zayneb, focused on the latter. She dedicated her journal entries to pruning the prickly overgrowth that stifled her young life.

By the time we meet her at eighteen, she’s become an expert gardener, ready to shear the world.

She’s also just been suspended from school.

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