Hilariously heartfelt read

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I received a finished copy of this book from BookishFirst in exchange for an honest review. Thank you BookishFirst and Viking Books.

Faced with blackmail and the threat of being outed, closeted Amir Azadi feels that his only choice is to escape from the reaction of his Muslim parents by fleeing to Rome. He finds himself with a new group of friends where he fits in and learns what it means to be himself, however, he cannot escape his family forever. How It All Blew Up by Arvin Ahmadi is a story of acceptance and self-discovery in a hilarious and compelling way.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick, easy read that I just couldn’t put down. Also, it was absolutely, laugh out loud, hilarious. For starters, I really enjoyed the characters. Amir, while flawed, was an enjoyable character to follow. He acted impulsively and made some questionable choices but I liked his narration and the story that unfolded around him. His Rome friends were just as entertaining and surprising. The found family dynamic he had with them was very heartwarming. I really enjoyed Jahan and his attempts to accumulate Amir to gay culture in Rome. Valerio deserved much more page time, he was such a sweet boy and his relationship with Amir was just as sweet. I even felt a draw to the people in Amir’s life back in America, despite the story not revolving around them. I wish we got to delve deeper into Jackson and his relationship with Amir.

Another thing I really enjoyed about the novel was its format. I enjoyed that the main story was told through Amir explaining the situation while being detained and interrogated. It was a clever mode of telling his story. Including snippets from the rest of his family as well was much needed to gain a feeling of their side of the story and their thoughts. It also allowed for more insight on what happened with Jackson and Jake as Soraya did her investigating into Amir’s disappearance.

Being set in Rome, I really loved the atmosphere as well. The writing was descriptive enough that, despite having never been to Rome, I could picture the scenery rather vividly. It really fueled my wanderlust in a way that makes me want to visit the Sistine Chapel and see the “heavenly homies” in Michelangelo’s paintings.

One of my only complaints with the book is that so much was happening that it could not all be touched upon. Some of the characterizations were underdeveloped and left me wanting more. That being said, it felt too soon to let go of these characters that I had grown to adore. I want to know if he reconnects with Jackson and stays in touch with his friends in Rome or even go back to Rome.

How It All Blew Up is such a personal, heartfelt story that you cannot help but love. With enjoyable characters, clever humor, and great formatting, it made for a pleasurable read which I would highly recommend.