FICTION

How It All Blew Up

Viking. Sept. 2020. 272p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593202876.
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Gr 9 Up–“First let me get one thing straight: I’m not a terrorist. I’m gay.” So begins this fast-paced coming out/coming-of-age/coming home story. Amir Azadi keeps a mental scorecard weighing the odds of rejection if his parents learn he’s gay. He’s decided to wait until college to start real life. Then the blackmail starts, and suddenly Amir has skipped graduation and hopped a plane to Rome. This isn’t the full plot—it’s barely the premise, and the whole story is told via monologue: The answers given by Amir and his family during questioning by Customs and Border Protection. Readers must accept that the airport interrogation is not where the drama lies either, but rather a clever frame, contrasting the unspoken and serious assumptions that put Amir’s family in airport jail with the idiosyncratic, sometimes ridiculous, and always complex truths of who they really are. The interview transcripts cover Amir’s arrival in Italy, his adoption by a group of gay men in their thirties, and the series of poor romantic decisions that immediately precede his return. Among these friends is Jahan, also of Iranian descent, who awards Amir points every time he learns about gay icons or queer culture. As Amir’s Persian and gay identities start to feel like an asset, he’s no longer willing to hide who he is.
VERDICT A funny and propulsive read, nuanced and full of heart.

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