title: Love Hate & Other Filters
author: Samira Ahmed
date: Soho Teen; January 2018
main character: Maya Aziz
17-year-old Maya is about to graduate high school. She’s actually a bit interested in the young man her parents totally approve of, but then, there’s Phil, the love of her life. Team Phil or Team Kareem? The choice isn’t quite so simple because Ahmed’s debut novel proves to be more than a simple romance; more than just another second gen Asian American novel about overcoming a set of traditional parents. There’s terror in this story.
Ahmed weaves suspense into her plot by giving her terrorist a parallel narrative. He’s part of the story, but he’s not. He’s an italicized addendum to most of the chapters. He’s part of Maya’s life, but he’s not. He, this terrorist, this insidious presence that has a direct impact on Maya and her family without ever directly touching them. Maya and her family are Muslim Indian Americans.
Adding to Maya’s stress is the fact that Phil is neither Muslim nor Indian American, someone Maya believes her parents will never approve. In that key moment, it’s Phil who saves Maya, and in smaller moments it’s Maya’s white bff Violet who saves and protect her. (Yes, Kareem is there when it counts, too!) Reads a bit like white saviors, doesn’t it? Well, I think I have a slightly different take on this. SPOILER: The situations in which Maya needs saving are created by white terrorists. She saved by her white friends. The message I see is that white people created this mess, white people need to fix it.
I don’t think Ahmed intentionally develop either of these messages, I think she simply wrote a story with enough depth to allow readers to relate to the characters and find their own meaning through the situations she’s created. I’m old enough to completely have sympathized with Maya’s parents; they were bad parents, just of a certain generation, you know? I remember my youth enough to understand Maya wanting her independence. Again, skillful writing that brought the tension involved in Maya trying to develop sense of American independence.
I liked Voilet, would like to have seen her flushed out a bit more so that her motives would have been more clear. I read an advanced copy, so I’m not sure what changes may have been made to the final version of the book.
Love Hate & Other Filters gives readers a little more meat to chew on than is typically found in romance novels.