Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary/Realistic Fiction, Multi-Cultural, LGBTQ
Published: August 20th, 2013 by Alqonquin Young Readers
Audiobook, 319 minutes
How I Got This Book: Checked it out from the library
Why I Picked It Up?: I was looking for a YA contemporary, standalone audiobook, and my library just got this one, and I had heard great things about it, so I picked it up!
Book Jacket Blurb: “In this stunning debut, a young Iranian American writer pulls back the curtain on one of the most hidden corners of a much-talked-about culture.
Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.
So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin’s parents announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.
Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution. In Iran, homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman’s body is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. As a man, Sahar could be the one to marry Nasrin. Sahar will never be able to love the one she wants, in the body she wants to be loved in, without risking her life. Is saving her love worth sacrificing her true self?”
I was extremely excited to read this story ever since I first heard about it. Why? Because it is set in Iran, and it is a transgender book, which is a type of LGBTQ story that I have not read before. When I saw that my library had an audio version, I grabbed it off the shelf and started listening to it immediately!
The premise of this story is fascinating to me. In the Islamic culture, it is illegal (penalty of death) to be openly gay, but the government will pay for sexual reassignment surgery no problem. To set a story around this cultural premise is such a unique and fascinating idea.
Sahar is in love with her best friend, Nasrine, who loves her, too. Unfortunately, their relationship is illegal, so they know it is only a matter of time before they can no longer be together in secret, as Nasrine becomes engaged to a doctor. This story explores the dynamics and impact of this situation on Sahar and her relationship with Nasrine, and it is a very emotional journey.
Sahar is fearless and brave. She is strong and knows what she wants. I really respect her for that, especially living in a culture where women are so suppressed. I felt that Negin’s audio performance really allowed me to connect with Sahar because she was so raw and real–I felt the emotions she felt. Negin Farsad’s performance was truly captivating for such a story, bringing to life the struggles Sahar deals with throughout this entire book.
Nasrine, however, is a character that I just really didn’t like. She is incredibly selfish throughout the whole story, and while she claims she loves Sahar too, she kind of treats her poorly. I feel that she only cares about things when it is convenient for her, and her wealth has sheltered her so much that she doesn’t even know how to act in public. And while this is realistic of some people’s attitudes, I just don’t relate to characters like that–they just end up annoying me.
From reading other reviews, it seems to me that people that read the book really had a disappointing experience, and that has to do with not connecting to the characters and the style of writing. I think I enjoyed this story because I listened to it. When someone else told me the story, it became her story, and I was listening to it intently. I connected with Sahar because Negin was such a fantastic narrator. Now, that doesn’t mean that this book doesn’t have flaws. I feel like the development of some of the plot points was a little convenient on occasion. Other times the story felt underdeveloped, like more was needed but not given. But overall, this was a solid and interesting LGBTQ story that I found to be extremely interesting.
My Bookshelf Rating:
Wow, what an emotional and eye-opening story. I am completely overwhelmed by this cultural story. This book is about a personal journey to try to figure out your place in a society that will kill you for who you are and who you love. And the audio book was brilliant. Negin Farsad’s performance reflects the emotion in the story perfectly. I do think that this book is a better listen than a read, because the prose is told as if a character were talking to you rather than a written story, so the writing may be a little weird to actually read. But the audio was a great listen!
Love and Key Lime Cake,