Book review: Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel, by Sara Farizan

Farizan Tell Me AgainFarizan, Sara. Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel: A Novel. Algonquin Young Readers. 2014. $16.95. 304p. HC. 9781616202842.

[Editor’s note: There are two reviews for this title. Scroll down for the second review.]
Review #1:

Leila is an Iranian-American teen who’s into zombie movies and finding that perfect hiding place to avoid running during soccer. Not falling into any clique, she’s surviving high school with her friends Tess and Greg. Even though she’s dated and kissed boys over the years (including Greg), Leila never really crushed on anyone–until the summer when a girl kissed her. Now that it’s fall and she is back in school, Leila is worried that her classmates will discover her secret, and she works tirelessly to hide it from her friends, other students and, most importantly, her Iranian-American family. Once she starts crushing on the new girl at school Saskia, however, all her lies and half-truths come crashing down.

In this sequel to her debut novel, If You Could Be Mine, Sara Farizan writes a powerful coming-of-age story in which Leila doesn’t struggle with her own feelings towards girls so much as how her family, friends and fellow students will feel about and react to her sexuality. The author’s evocative prose pulls the reader into the high school milieu where the vagaries of students push and pull Leila in one direction or another, where mean girls exist regardless of who they kiss, and where one finds true friends by being true to oneself. Farizan—herself a lesbian of Iranian ancestry–has readers laughing at ethnic and sexual stereotypes being upended and worrying about Leila as her crush’s behavior spins out-of-control. Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel offers an excellent read that teens will find engaging and thought-provoking.

Those who enjoyed Deborah Ellis’ Moon at Nine (http://www.glbtrt.ala.org/reviews/moon-at-nine/), a fascinating historical fiction story about lesbian teens and their life and death struggles in 1988 Iran, will also appreciate Tell Me Again.

Ruth Compton, Youth Services Librarian
Arlington County Public Library (VA)

Review #2:

Leila, an Iranian-American teenager attending an elite private school, is also a closeted lesbian. She has not come out because she fears her traditional family’s reaction and worries about how she would still fit in at school. Luckily, she doesn’t have a crush at school (except on her clearly unattainable teacher) so it’s an easy secret to keep. That is, until a new student arrives. Gorgeous, confident, mature Saskia also shows an interest in Leila. As Leila navigates through the school year, she uncovers she is not the only one with a secret.

Characters that seem to be caricatures or stereotypes in the beginning refreshingly evolve into more complexity. With its humorous narrative and light-hearted journey of self-discovery, the novel also has notable reflections on race and culture, e.g., when Lelia discusses the problematic “where are you from?” question she gets because she looks “ethnically ambiguous.” The balance between humor and serious topics will make this book appealing to a wide range of teens who enjoy contemporary stories.

Jenna Goodall, Youth Services Librarian
Deerfield (IL) Public Library

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