Poignant and Fantastic

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“At the end of the day, I’d much rather be in this airport interrogation room than back in the closet.”

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
I was really attracted to this book at first for the writing. It was funny, quirky, and kind of brutal. I feel like that died down the deeper we got into the story, but the book still manages to be entertaining as well as meaningful.

This book is about Amir, a gay Iranian teen who is sick of being blackmailed. Skipping graduation, he takes off to Rome without telling his family. Told in flashbacks from a TSA interview room. Amir tells his story of identity, love, and his two worlds.

The book is mostly Amir’s adventure in Rome meeting people and making friends. Overall, getting to be with other members of the LGBT community out in the open and exploring that side of himself. I really like most of his friends, but it got a bit difficult keeping track of everyone. I feel like I was definitely confused a bit of the time. I also did find it a bit weird and oddly convenient that Amir was just able to find the perfect people by coincidence in a very large city, but when in Rome, I guess. I did like most of them, like Neil. Everyone else kind of blurred together, even Jahan.

I liked Amir’s character well enough. I feel like he’s a very sweet kid who really doesn’t feel ready to confront his family with hard stuff. I also think that there wasn’t much else to him. Which I understand in a story like this, so centered around one aspect of his identity, it’s hard to add more. Since so much of Amir’s thoughts and focus was on balancing his heritage with this sexuality in front of his family, and to a greater extent, society.

I did really like this great idea of just taking off to Rome, to just going somewhere you’ve never gone in order to regain perspective of your life. Amir is kind of a badass for doing it in my opinion. But yeah, in general, it’s probably ill-advised. It does make a good book though.

I also really liked his families’ interviews. We get to hear from every member of his family, how they felt about him being gone. That felt really important to the book. I especially enjoyed Amir’s sister’s perspective on finding him. She is at once, very old and very young. Young enough to be unafraid to what the world is trying to be subtle about and old enough to know exactly what the world is trying to tell her. I think Soraya was at times, inconsistent in how she was written, but she plays an interesting role nonetheless.

TL;DR: How It All Blew Up is interesting, witty, and at times, insightful. I do think the story drags in places. Rome gets kind of repetitive at times, but overall the story is well-contained. I ended up liking the book, just not really loving it.

Finished Copy provided by BookishFirst and Penguin Teen in exchange for an honest review.