TITLE: How It All Blew Up
AUTHOR: Arvin Ahmadi
RELEASE DATE: September 22, 2020
SETTING: United States / Italy
PUBLISHER: Penguin Teen, Viking Books
GENRE(S): YA Contemporary, Romance, LGBT, Travel, Family and Culture
Thank you to Penguin Teen, Viking Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for my ARC of this title in exchange for my honest review.
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.
Amir is an 18 yo getting ready to graduate high school. His traditional (not exactly religious) Muslim family doesn’t have any clue that he is gay and he fears they wouldn’t respond well. But, he and a handsome jock have been spending a lot of time getting acquainted in the privacy of this boy’s car. When another boy at school threatens Amir with a photo of he and the boy kissing, Amir doesn’t know what to do. If Amir doesn’t pay this guy an amount of money that he doesn’t have, he will out Amir to his parents during graduation. So, Amir does the only thing he can think of… he runs!
Amir takes the money he has and heads to Rome, Italy. There he begins his journey of self discovery. He meets a group of welcoming people, some gay, some not. But, he is able, with the help of this newfound family, to come to terms with who he is and understand his sexuality. The people he meets are pretty wonderful. And through the summer that he spends in Rome, he does some great things, but in true human fashion, he does some pretty stupid things, too.
One thing I don’t tend to like in books, especially YA, is when a certain plot point is based on a lie told. Amir tells these new friends a lie and when the truth comes out, it alters his experience there and how some of the most influential new friends of his see him. While, I understand why he told the lie, that was the only thing in this book that I didn’t care for.
Ultimately, this story is told between two settings. One is Amir telling his story of being in school, leaving right before graduation and his time in Rome. The other is an interrogation-like situation where Amir and his family are detained after an argument between he and his parents on a flight home. Because of the color of their skin and the fact that they are Muslim is the reason they get detained, but the Muslim culture isn’t a HUGE aspect of this book. It is in a general sense, but I mean that in the way that it was written in the way that the author is assuming that people know a general knowledge of Muslim and Persian culture. It isn’t the forefront of the story, but it is present.
I completely adored this story. I loved Amir and all of his fears and flaws. He was a wonderful human who was just scared of his family knowing he was gay. I loved his little sister, who was 100% a champion for him. I loved the group of people that he came to know in Rome and all of the wonderful growth they helped Amir attain.