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How It All Blew Up de Arvin Ahmadi
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How It All Blew Up (edició 2020)

de Arvin Ahmadi (Autor)

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Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda goes to Italy in Arvin Ahmadi's newest incisive look at identity and what it means to find yourself by running away. Eighteen-year-old Amir Azadi always knew coming out to his Muslim family would be messy--he just didn't think it would end in an airport interrogation room. But when faced with a failed relationship, bullies, and blackmail, running away to Rome is his only option. Right? Soon, late nights with new friends and dates in the Sistine Chapel start to feel like second nature... until his old life comes knocking on his door. Now, Amir has to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth to a US Customs officer, or risk losing his hard-won freedom. At turns uplifting and devastating, How It All Blew Up is Arvin Ahmadi's most powerful novel yet, a celebration of how life's most painful moments can live alongside the riotous, life-changing joys of discovering who you are.… (més)
Títol:How It All Blew Up
Autors:Arvin Ahmadi (Autor)
Informació:Viking Books for Young Readers (2020), 288 pages
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca

Informació de l'obra

How It All Blew Up de Arvin Ahmadi

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Coming of age frightens and bewilders each of us without regard to our gender, sexuality, race, or family situation. Coming of age embedded in one family culture while surrounded by a profoundly different one multiplies the complexity of arriving at adulthood. Layering an alternate sexuality on top of all that exacerbates the entire transitional process.
How It All Blew Up dives deeply into that entire all-too-real circumstance, one faced daily bu many young people.
Amir's family lives the Iranian culture from which it immigrated. Its values and beliefs form his life and life perspective. He realizes, however, that he is special. He does not want what the family wants for him, particularly his family's expectations about his future as a husband and father. He is attracted to other men, instead. In his family culture, such an attraction is a shame-ridden, unacceptable attitude, one that must be suppressed and 'corrected.'
Understanding this about his situation makes Amir particularly vulnerable to fears about being discovered. When a bullying predator in Amir's high school catches Amir kissing another young man with a photograph of their kiss, Amir becomes the victim of the blackmailing, greedy, bully. To Amir, nothing could be a greater threat to him.
Fear incapacitates reasoned thought, replacing it with panic. Amir's panic tells him that escaping his situation is the only way he can deal with it. He runs away at the most unexpected time, during his expected high school graduation ceremony. Amir flees to an unexpected place, Paris.
Once in Paris, he finds that he understands little about his own sexuality and the culture surrounding it. Amir is lucky enough to fall into a compassionate group of men who understand his problem and help him deal with it. Along the way, both Amir and the reader are 'educated' about being gay. The cultural icons, the terminology, the expected behaviors, the acceptance of dating norms, the appropriate and inappropriate sexual behaviors, and a variety of other issues become a curriculum for the neophyte gay young man.
Along with that comes the normal human drama of life, love, conflict, and coping. Lovers fall out, friends abandon or disappoint other friends, transitions of various types are made. In Amir's case, all of this occurs while his family desperately attempts to locate and re-connect with its missing member.
The family, too, must make a journey that will make it face the realities of Amir's sexuality. The family learns that love and acceptance supersede expectations, culture, judgment, and condemnation. For both Amir and his family, it is a challenging curriculum, one that many families in the real world will never fully master.
In reading the novel, I was at first a little put off by the feeling that the book masquerades as fiction while actually being a sort of 'instruction manual on gayness.' When the plot thickened into dealing with the normal complications and conflicts of a gay lifestyle and gay relationships, the 'instruction manual' morphed into being an authentic novel, a beautiful story of awakening, and testament to the love people are capable of when they allow themselves to transcend their cultural and familial prejudices.
( )
  PaulLoesch | Apr 2, 2022 |
Amir is an 18 year old closeted gay Muslim in the US who is being blackmailed by some bullies so he decides to fly to Rome on the day of his graduation without telling anyone! He leaves behind worried parents and sister and boyfriend and we , the readers, learn through a custom interrogation tape that his family eventually discover where he is and follow him and then something happens that gets them all dragged off the plane and into Border Security. After landing in Rome, Amir befriends a guy in a bookshop and then a bar who happen to speak perfect English and be gay and put him up for the night!(Without expecting anything in return) Then Amir embarks on a month of parties around Rome with a group of older, richer gay men who all look after him and only one who wants to take advantage of him, while Amir makes money writing wikipedia pages for companies. Mmmm. A bit unbelievable .....I would have thought that he would have been preyed on and that this book is a bit dangerous as this paints a very glamourous world for young gay men in Europe (but what would I know as I am a 50plus female?)
Anyway, one of the troop tells Amir's family where he is and so that is why they end up in the interrogation rooms at the start of the book. Its an okay read. ( )
  nicsreads | Feb 27, 2022 |
How it All Blew Up is about Amir, a closeted, eighteen-year-old. He always knew it would be hard to come out to his Muslim family, so he hasn't. When some bullies find out and blackmail him, Amir gets scared, skips graduation, and fleas to Rome. He gets taken in by a group of new friends and he spends his summer having late nights where he can feel like himself. Until his old life comes back knocking. Now, Amir is telling the whole story, with the entire truth, to a U.S. Customs officer as his family has just been detained. Can Amir get his hard-won freedom back?

I went into this book thinking it would be a storyline I don't really see: representation of a queer Muslim in YA... I didn't really get that. Islam plays no part in this story - Amir openly admits his family isn't that religious. When asked if his parents would disapprove of him being gay, he replied:

"Yes and no. Our culture is pretty conservative, even if you're not religious."

It also went into this huge countdown leading up to what happened on the airplane and why the family is detained and when we get there... it just felt like it fell short of what it could have been. I also just didn't care much for the main character, he never really clicked with me and I honestly don't know why but I found myself rolling my eyes at a lot of his choices and reasonings.

The whole story also felt very unrealistic to me. How on Earth does an eighteen-year-old make enough money editing Wikipedia pages to get to Rome, get his own apartment, and live there a whole month? There were so many side characters that would be mentioned in passing for only a page and then never heard from again? Amir's high school boyfriend we get built up to be this whole thing, for him to just toss him aside. We had all these supposed close relationships (Amir and his sister were supposedly super close??) but everything felt surface level and not flushed out. There's an entire scene in the novel, that I won't get into because of spoilers, but it just felt wrong and had no real build up to the entire scenario besides small side remarks.

The only character I really even cared for was Amir's sister, Soraya. She was only thirteen, but she was a firecracker just waiting to be messed with. She cared for her brother, regardless of anything.

I did enjoy the back and forth of the interrogation rooms and what happened as it made it a super fast read. Apart from that though, I think the story fell short of what it could have been.

*Thank you Bookish First and Penguin Teen for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  oldandnewbooksmell | Sep 24, 2021 |
Fun journey

From the beginning of the story, this book got me intrigued. The way Arvin manages to tell a story that can be intriguing and funny at the same time just makes it a marvelous read. Personally I’ve never read a coming-out story that had so much outside and inside conflicts, and it feels like everything will blow up at any moment.
Besides dealing with coming-out, this book also deals with friends, love relationships, family and religion. All these different factors make the characters feel multidimensional and mostly relatable, altho some times you just ask yourself “why?! it was obviously not okay!”, but anyway, that’s part of the complicated journey out characters have to deal with.
Personally the events that took place in this book were not predictable at all, and this kept the story interesting and of course super emotional all the way to the end, even when there weren’t many twists in the story. Yes, the events were surprising, but I would consider them as plot twists, which is something I absolutely loved, it allowed me to enjoy much more the story.
Wrapping all up, the characters are absolutely amazing, and likable at first read. I’ve been a fan or Arvin’s writing style since Down and Across, which I absolutely loved. This book ends just in the right tone, which I deeply appreciate. How It All Blew Up is perfect for Becky Albertalli fans, so I recommend it to teens and YA fans. ( )
  book_velvet | Mar 2, 2021 |
Literary Merit: Great
Characterization: Great
Recommended: Yes
Level: High School

This was another book I received from NetGalley that sounded interesting, but that I knew very little about before I started reading. The novel starts with a very intriguing hook: an 18 year old Muslim boy being interrogated by airport police for an altercation he had with his family on a plane earlier in the day. What follows is a surprisingly heartwarming tale about staying true to yourself amidst chaos and uncertainty. Though my eBook ARC was a tad confusing to read at times (through no fault of the author), I really enjoyed this sweet, charming little story.

How It All Blew Up begins, intriguingly, with an interrogation. Amir Azadi has somehow found himself in custody at an airport after he and his parents got into a screaming match on a crowded airplane. Now trapped in separate interrogation rooms, Amir and his family account the events that led up to this moment, from a sinister blackmail plot to a summer spent in Italy. Cutting between Amir's interrogation and the flashbacks to his summer, Amir pieces together everything that has happened to lead him to this point. Full of humor, wit, and a surprising amount of heart, this book reminds readers just how important it is to remain true to ourselves, no matter the cost.

Without a doubt, my favorite message in this book is the one about found families, and how important it can be for someone to find a community that will love and accept them no matter what. When Amir runs away to Italy, he finds a group of older gay men who take him under their wing, encouraging him to open up and stop being afraid of who he is. Because of this found family, Amir goes from closeted and timid to someone who can easily give a heartfelt speech in a room full of people, and more importantly someone who isn't afraid to stand up to his traditional parents and be his unapologetic true self. One of the most important things about books with sensitive topics like this is the idea of found families, or the ones we choose when our biological families aren't as supportive as we wish they'd be. Amir meets a colorful cast of gay men in this book, from the bartender Jahan to the cute bookseller Neil. Each new character teaches him something new about himself, and each reminds him that while life can be messy, it is always worth living authentically.

Another aspect of this book I really enjoyed was the relationship between Amir and his sister Soraya, who is undauntingly supportive of him even while being sassy and sarcastic. While they're obviously very close, Soraya often gives Amir the push he needs to grow and change, and is consistently on Amir's side when his parents are being less than supportive. I also loved that she was a quirky character, someone outgoing and passionate about the theater, her chosen art form. In a way, she provides inspiration for Amir to be himself, and helps ground him while he's living his best life with his new Italian friends.

I also appreciated the parents in this book, who are initially shocked and less than supportive, but who quickly realize that a life without their son is far worse than having a son who is gay. Unlike many YA books, Amir's parents don't fall into a particular category. They don't immediately disown him and throw him out, but they aren't instantly and entirely supportive either. Their reaction to Amir's LGBT status is honestly a realistic one; they still love him, but aren't necessarily happy that his life is going to be harder because he's LGBT. Their reconciliation in the end, while brief, is proof to young LGBT readers that it is possible to find happiness and acceptance, even with traditionally conservative parents and family members. This, along with Amir's family, is proof that things can get better, even in what seem like terrible circumstances.

My two main gripes with the book are somewhat related. Firstly, the character of Jake REALLY irritated me. Even though I was supposed to hate him, there were moments where it seemed like the author was almost trying to make him seem sympathetic for blackmailing a young closeted Muslim. He claims he "needed the money for school" and that "he didn't want to hurt the other boy's family because of all the good they did for the community." The blackmail plot honestly reminded me a lot of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, only the blackmailer is NEVER punished or outed for being a horrible human being.

This leads to my second gripe with the book: there are a TON of loose ends that are never tied up at the end. We never see Amir and his family REALLY sit down and talk about their issues outside of the plane debacle. We never see him reconcile with Jackson, the cute football player he left and ignored upon fleeing to Italy. We don't find out what happens to his relationship with his new Italian friends, or whether he decides to go to college in Italy to be near them. Amir never even really gets a moment to talk to his sister, who has been worried sick about him for months with no idea where he's gone. Once we catch up to his narration, there really isn't much closure at all for the characters we've grown to love throughout the story, and I felt that was a real shame.

Lastly, I'd like to touch on the brief moments of commentary about xenophobia and anti-Muslim rhetoric, as the entire framing device of the novel centers around this topic. Throughout their length interrogation, it becomes clear to Amir and his family that they have ONLY been pulled aside because they are thought to be terrorists, owing mostly to their Muslim faith. At one point, Amir's mom has to justify the fact that she wears the hijab to teach at a traditional Muslim school, and is asked to translate a peaceful prayer she posted on Facebook because it seems suspicious. Similarly, both the officers and other passengers on the plane assume that Amir's parents will be immediately and horrendously homophobic simply because of their religion, something that rarely happens when someone labels themselves Christian.

While it is brief and not the focus of the story, I appreciate that the author was trying to make a statement about what it's like to be a person of color who practices a different faith from the norm in the United States. Amir and his family are detained simply for "looking" suspicious, and the entire narrative is framed through their interrogation as the officers try to make sure they aren't actually terrorists. This is an excellent exercise in examining intersectionality, as Amir is part of not one but TWO marginalized groups in our society, making him more vulnerable to attacks from those who do not or choose not to understand his sexuality and culture. This is the kind of novel that provides a window to those outside of these groups, while also providing a mirror to those who might strongly relate to what Amir and his family are going through.

As a whole, I really enjoyed this book, and found myself laughing often at the many cute, funny cultural references throughout this book. While this might eventually date the book for future readers, I think it's a really fun, heartfelt piece of realistic fiction that helps to normalize LGBT Muslim characters. I'll be honest; I don't often see LGBT and Muslim fiction crossing over this way, even in YA, so I'm really happy that this book exists. It provides much needed cultural representation, and has truly likeable and sympathetic characters. My only real gripe is that it ended far too abruptly, and I would've liked to see more closure with some of the plot points. Other than that, I think this is a truly solid work of romantic and realistic fiction, and I would gladly recommend it to any teen looking for a cute, diverse read with a lot of important things to say. ( )
  SWONroyal | Feb 18, 2021 |
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Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda goes to Italy in Arvin Ahmadi's newest incisive look at identity and what it means to find yourself by running away. Eighteen-year-old Amir Azadi always knew coming out to his Muslim family would be messy--he just didn't think it would end in an airport interrogation room. But when faced with a failed relationship, bullies, and blackmail, running away to Rome is his only option. Right? Soon, late nights with new friends and dates in the Sistine Chapel start to feel like second nature... until his old life comes knocking on his door. Now, Amir has to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth to a US Customs officer, or risk losing his hard-won freedom. At turns uplifting and devastating, How It All Blew Up is Arvin Ahmadi's most powerful novel yet, a celebration of how life's most painful moments can live alongside the riotous, life-changing joys of discovering who you are.

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