How It All Blew Up is incredibly relatable, emotional, and fast paced. It’s a book where every time I had to put it down, I immediately wanted to pick it up again. Ahmadi’s narration style is compelling making this a perfect read for an afternoon. Keep reading this book review to see what I loved about How It All Blew Up!
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.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
TW: Islamaphobia, homophobia, panic attacks, blackmail
What struck me from the very beginning about How It All Blew Up was how relatable Amir is. Don’t we all know that feeling when our mistakes catch up to us? When little lies, small mistakes, end up snowballing and turning into an avalanche? How those things we say end up collecting dust, the feeling of dread and guilt collecting in our guts. Making it more difficult, with each passing moment, to tell the truth. Until it explodes forth in a rush of anger, guilt, betrayal, and resentment.
How It All Blew Up is one of those books which begins at the end, and works our way backwards. We witness the fall out. The aftermath. And reading becomes an experience detailing how it all blew it up. Like looking at a car crash in reverse. Seeing all those details we missed in the moments, the times we should have took an extra moment. Throughout the book, Ahmadi not only tells Amir’s story from his perspective as it unfolds, and the airport interrogation room, but also through the voices of his parents and sister.
I’ve already talked about how relatable Amir’s character is in his mistakes, but he’s also relatable in his fears. The pressure and fear of coming out, of realizing that this experience, which is so crucial and terrifying, won’t be on our terms. When what we’ve been planning, occupying our thoughts, ceases to belong to us. And how, awfully and cruelly, that robbery is. The ways he feels the pieces of himself separated. Secret sides that never see the light of day and that feel fractured.
How it feels to be balancing the pieces of our identity. Wondering how many actions, moments, and experiences it will take for us to have the bravery. For the space to be one of safety, to feel confident in ourselves.
Even though I’ve been talking about Amir’s struggles, How It All Blew Up is full of laughter, good pizza, and found family. It’s a story driven by re-invention. By taking the messy long road to figuring out who we are. To close the distance between who we want to be and the present moment. Having the strength to grab the life we are manifesting from the clouds.