You know when you’ve waited so long on a book and you kick yourself for not reading it sooner? That’s me and Love, Hate & Other Filters. I’ve heard so many phenomenal things about it, but it took a buddy read to get me to pick it up my TBR mountain.
A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape—perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.
American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.
There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.
And even though I heard so many good things about this book, it still surprised the heck out of me. I figured I would love Maya, but what I did not anticipate is how much I would love her. She is cool, witty, and not afraid to be sassy. But the whole second half of the book really took me by surprise, in a good way as Maya comes up against the islamaphobia in her life. It’s about a girl’s love of film, navigating her own desires, and fighting for her future.
So love triangles used to bug the heck out of me. I know, I know, but hear me out. But then someone on Twitter, and I don’t remember who, I’m sorry, said that love triangles aren’t about indecision, it’s about what they represent. It’s about the pieces of the future, the expectations, the choices they represent. And then it all sort of clicked for me and I may have done a 180 on how I feel about the whole trope – if it’s done right of course.
And Ahmed nails it. Because it represents that Maya is torn between her expectations and the different paths before her. It’s both about when we cannot be open to new people or experiences, but also when our heart is tugging us in one direction, despite everything we see around us. Even more so, Maya talks about because she never saw girls like her getting that Hallmark movie, desi girls, she feels almost like she doesn’t deserve that ending, that boy, that kind of happiness. In spite of what she has seen and this just hit me so hard in the feels.
Because that’s just so accurate to how I felt growing up. That girls like me didn’t get to be called pretty, didn’t get to be seen beyond our appearance. We didn’t get the happy endings. And so my heart broke a little for Maya when I read that, but in a way of deep relatablility – teenage me feels seen.
But Love, Hate & Other Filters is about so much more. It’s about passion, fighting for what we love and against intolerance. It’s about how prejudice, oppression, and racism impact us without even directly touching us, reaching across the distance. And when they arrive on our doorstep, how everything we thought can change. What will we do with the change? Feeling like we can’t be whoever we want and the feeling of deep tiredness of fighting, in the face of it all.