Title: Love, Hate and Other Filters
Author: Samira Ahmed
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication Date: January 16th 2018
Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟
Maya Aziz is torn between futures: the one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter (i.e.; staying nearby in Chicago and being matched with a “suitable” Muslim boy), and the one where she goes to film school in New York City–and maybe, just maybe, kisses a guy she’s only known from afar. There’s the also the fun stuff, like laughing with her best friend Violet, making on-the-spot documentaries, sneaking away for private swimming lessons at a secret pond in the woods. But her world is shattered when a suicide bomber strikes in the American heartland; by chance, he shares Maya’s last name. What happens to the one Muslim family in town when their community is suddenly consumed with hatred and fear?
Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review!
Trigger warning for Islamophobia and physical assault.
I’ve been putting off writing this review for a while because I didn’t know how to write my honest thoughts whilst still conveying that this book is important regardless of my personal opinion. As one of my most anticipated releases of the year, Love, Hate and Other Filters did not live up to the hype. At all. I’m genuinely disappointed that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would, especially since it has touched so many other Muslim readers.
I did, however, find the book somewhat relatable – though I actually related more to the cultural aspects than the religious ones despite being Muslim but not Indian. For a book that is marketed heavily on the Muslim representation and its tackling of Islamophobia, the focus on these themes was rather underwhelming. I enjoyed that the author strayed from portraying the stereotypical Muslim girl in her protagonist, Maya, but I also thought the Islamophobia she encounters in two separate incidents was brushed over too quickly. Perhaps this was due to the pacing since the book itself is relatively short, but I expected the narrative to engage more with this timely topic.
That being said, this is clearly not an issue book. For me, it read like a contemporary romance novel which would explain why I didn’t enjoy it. Regardless of my dislike for the genre, it’s refreshing to see a romance book about a Muslim teen that doesn’t centre on Islamophobia or even being Muslim. Maya was a great protagonist who battled conflict from both the outside world and within herself. I loved her passion for filmmaking and this was incorporated into the writing in a way that, at times, felt like you were reading a movie script. The romance itself was rather stereotypical; there was a case of insta-love and also a love triangle. Whilst I didn’t care for the love story – an aspect that is quite central to the book – it was nice to see a positive portrayal of the guys in Maya’s life.
Overall, I have mixed feelings about this book. Personally, it’s not one where I can vouch for the Muslim representation but you can find plenty of reviews by other Muslim readers who thought otherwise. It is #ownvoices, and it counters common misconceptions about Muslims and Islam; that we are not terrorists and, more importantly, that we are NOT a monolith. Maya and I just have very different relationships with our faith so it’s not necessarily a negative thing that I couldn’t relate. It’s just a shame that I dived into this book for religion but what I ended up with was romance.