Sahar is in love with her friend, Nasrin. But there's a problem: they're both girls, and they live in Iran, where being gay can get you killed. Sahar has trouble imagining a life without Nasrin, so when Nasrin gets engaged she comes up with a drastic solution; become a man.
As Sahar struggles with the uncertainty of the future and the prejudice present in her society, she meets some new friends and spends time with her gay cousin, Ali. She forms a plan to stop Nasrin's marriage and hopes for a happily ever after, but she is unsure of whether she will go through with it.
I wasn't planning on reading this book because it sounded too sad for me, but my book club voted it as one of the books of the month, and it was in my library, so I picked it up. I can say that I was absolutely correct, this is an incredibly sad book. I struggled reading about all of the things that Sahar had to deal with and I did my best to prevent myself from crying while I read. However, at the end of the book, I did shed some tears.
The most striking thing about this novel, in my opinion, is how raw it is. Sahar's narration doesn't hold anything back, and reading about her hopes and fears was heartbreaking. I couldn't put the book down. This book isn't the type of thing that I usually read but I am so glad that I picked it up.
This story made me really stop and think. I thought about how lucky I am to live where I do, and reading about Sahar's situation made me so grateful that I have basic rights, which aren't really compromised due to my sexuality, as opposed to what she was facing. It also made me angry. Very, very angry that people have to live in places where they fear being jailed or even killed for who they are, and who they love. I feel like this book is a sort of call to action to readers, to look into what hardships LGBTQ people face in other countries, and maybe to consider helping them in whatever way possible.
Aside from the highly emotional aspect, Sahar's character was extremely likeable and she had a unique and memorable voice. She stuck out to me because of her struggles and her internal dialogue and narration, and I think that she was the perfect choice for a narrator. I feel that if Nasrin were narrating I might not feel the same connection, considering that some descriptions of her made her seem selfish or inconsistent.
I can't say much concerning the accuracy of the author's portrayal of the setting, however I can say that I found myself fully immersed in the story and setting and that it was easy to understand what was going on despite cultural differences, terms, et cetera. I understood the danger that Sahar faced in her country and the rules and regulations very easily, as the author explained them well through Sahar's voice.
While I recommend this book to anyone looking for emotional YA and LGBTQ books, I do want to say that I think that very sensitive readers might want to steer clear of this one. There are upsetting situations which could hit close to home for some people, and the theme of homophobia is rather dark considering the risk of violence and death.
As I mentioned, this book will be enjoyed by those looking for emotional YA and/or LGBTQ stories. If you're interested in a book that deals with being LGBTQ in a country where it's illegal to have same sex relationships, this book is for you.
Very raw and honest narration