Monday, September 29, 2014

Review: Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan

Title: Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel
Author: Sara Farizan
Publisher: Algonquin
Release date: October 7th 2014
Pages: 304
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: NetGalley - I received a free eGalley of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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High-school junior Leila has made it most of the way through Armstead Academy without having a crush on anyone, which is something of a relief. Her Persian heritage already makes her different from her classmates; if word got out that she liked girls, life would be twice as hard. But when a sophisticated, beautiful new girl, Saskia, shows up, Leila starts to take risks she never thought she would, especially when it looks as if the attraction between them is mutual. Struggling to sort out her growing feelings and Saskia s confusing signals, Leila confides in her old friend, Lisa, and grows closer to her fellow drama tech-crew members, especially Tomas, whose comments about his own sexuality are frank, funny, wise, and sometimes painful. Gradually, Leila begins to see that almost all her classmates are more complicated than they first appear to be, and many are keeping fascinating secrets of their own.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Just like with Sara Farizan's debut, If You Could Be Mine, I absolutely loved the idea for Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel, and I believe that both books are important stories to tell. But sadly, also just like with If You Could Be Mine, I had some issues with the execution and some details about the story. Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel wasn't a personal favorite, but I did enjoy parts of it, and I most definitely think it's a really important book to have been published.

Leila's character had a lot of potential, but I think Sara Farizan could have done more with her. I understand that her sexuality is the main focus of the novel, but just being gay doesn't make up a whole person. There are other aspects of her life that we get to see - like her Iranian heritage, and her interest in theater - but the focus is still definitely on her being gay. I wanted to know more about Leila, not about her sexuality, her heritage, or her interests, but just about her as a person.

The story started out great, but it lost focus after a while. I understand that that's kind of the point - there isn't supposed to be any one most important storyline, since this is just Leila's coming-of-age - but I still wish the different storylines hadn't gone off in such random directions. My favorite storyline is probably the theater one - I really enjoyed getting to see Leila in this setting. My least favorite one, though, would have to be the romance: the romance, and the happy ending, seem kind of forced, and I don't think the love interest's character or Leila's relationship with her are strong enough to carry the story.

Just like in If You Could Be Mine, the secondary characters were probably what I enjoyed most about Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel. I really appreciated how Leila has such a diverse group of friends, meaning from different parts of the stereotypical high school groups. I didn't like all of them, but you're not supposed to, and I loved that all of them are intriguing in their own way. 

I had a couple of really small issues that don't even really warrant a paragraph on their own, so I'm just going to randomly list them. For some reason, a couple of Leila's friends are always referred to with their first and last name, which seemed really random. Also, if you have big boobs, buying bras at Forever 21 is not a thing that can happen. (Unless I've been going to the wrong Forever 21s.) And I took issue with some of Leila's opinions: in some ways, her coming out translated to now openly objectifying women, which is not cool.

Sorry that this review is so all over the place; I really don't know how to come up with anything coherent to say about this book. I really enjoyed the idea and some parts of the novel, but others are just very underdeveloped. Like I said, it's not going to be a personal favorite, but I do think that this is a very important book, so if you enjoy LGBT stories, Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel is definitely a book you should give a try.


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