Nobody is at their best on an airplane - it’s tight quarters, the temperature is never quite right, and you’ve had to deal with the hassle of the airport for at least an hour or two before you even get on the plane. Add in an overseas flight and family tension, it’s a recipe for disaster, particularly if the family is Iranian on a flight to the United States. Amir Azadi and his family were on the plane back to the United States from Italy when their family drama became the plane’s drama, and now the only way out is for Amir to explain the past month to the US Customs officer. Amir was blackmailed by a classmate who threatened to out him at graduation, and he couldn’t get all the money his classmate demanded in time. Instead of going to graduation, Amir gets on a plane to New York City, and then from New York City to Rome. In Rome, he finds new friends and a new understanding of what it means to be himself.
This is a fast, fun read, though it does occasionally feel rushed. Amir is a likeable, genuine character, even when I didn’t agree with some of his decisions. The story of Amir’s time in Italy is punctuated with his family’s statements to customs officers at the airport, providing additional perspective. The family is divided up for questioning, with Amir and his father in their own rooms, and his mother and sister together, and each member of the family has a very different reaction to the process as well as the story.
I’d recommend this for realistic fiction YA fans, especially those looking for a story where the coming-of-age narrative isn’t about the beginning or devastating end of a first love. Amir’s sexuality is at the center of this story, but so is his identity as an Iranian-American. There’s romance and fun, but it’s more about Amir and his relationship with his own identity.