This is one of those books that I wish I had read while I was in high school. While I read a lot during those years, I didn’t read much YA, and books featuring m/m or f/f relationships were far and few in between (okay, I’m not that old, but that was like eight years ago already, and YA has come a long way since then!).
Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel is a breath of fresh air for YA readers questioning their sexuality and their identity as a whole person. While light-hearted and, in parts, hilarious and entertaining, this book is deep and inspiring…exactly the type of book that can make a difference in someone’s life.
Leila is a fun main character. The way Sara Farizan has written her makes her seem real; she is down to earth, witty, and awkward. As an Iranian American, she knows she has her differences already, but when a new girl, Saskia, moves to town and starts at her school, she realizes that she has a huge crush on her. She finds her alluring, gorgeous, and brilliant. While she isn’t ready to come out of the closet (she doesn’t believe her family would approve of her liking girls), she falls more and more for Saskia.
Saskia can tell that Leila has a crush on her, and uses it to her advantage – holding Leila’s hand, sneaking kisses in the dressing room…but does she really return the feelings? After all, Saskia is beautiful, popular, and fun…while Leila hangs around with a different crowd and spends her time working on the school play with some of her classmates who are no where near being in that same crowd. So when she starts to feel like the attraction between them is mutual, Leila doesn’t know that she’s in for an emotional rollercoaster ride, and maybe not always a good one.
My favorite part about Leila is that she isn’t afraid to be herself. She states in the book that she isn’t skinny, but that she’s happy with how she looks. This type of portrayal of positive body image in YA is exactly what we need to be seeing. If more people read books where the main character is happy with who they are, despite their flaws (heck, even while embracing their flaws), it could do wonders for self-esteem. So a big thank you to Sara Farizan for promoting this type of message. I have so much respect for this!
Plus, not only is Leila confident about herself (appearance-wise), she’s adorable. The things she says and does in this book are so awkward (and come on, let’s face it, easy to relate to), and some of it tends to be pretty amusing at times.
“‘Look at how pretty you are!’ Mom exclaims. ‘You should straighten your hair all the time!’
Well, I guess that’s one thing I can straighten about myself.”
While coming out is a big issue for Leila throughout the book, it is an important part of the novel and one that makes it feel even more real. She is concerned about what her family will think, since they are Persian and it isn’t really acceptable for her to like girls. She even points out that friends of her parents kicked their son out for coming out, and she is afraid they might react the same way. So she struggles throughout the whole novel to figure out who she is, and what she wants, and she does so alone for the majority of it. But as she begins making friends with her classmates who are working on the school play (the girls who handle the technical parts, and Thomas, who is gay and already out), she begins to realize that maybe she really does have friends who won’t judge her, and maybe coming out wouldn’t be the worst
This is the type of book is the type of book we need to see more of. It has the perfect balance of humor, romance, and a twist at the end that wraps the book up so nicely. As soon as I put this one down, I wanted to read it again, and I know it’s going to be one that I recommend often (and it’s definitely going on my favorites shelf!). While I haven’t read Sara Farizan’s first book, you can bet that I’m going to pick it up as soon as I get the chance!
Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.