Review: Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed


Or…the YA novel that made me realise I AM TOO OLD FOR THIS SHIT.

Maya Aziz is a typical teenager. She hangs out with her friends, goes to school and dreams of moving to New York to study film making at college. The only problem is her Indian Muslim super conservative parents are more interested in Maya meeting A Suitable Boy and getting married. Maya, however, is too busy giggling, blushing and hair twiddling at boys (Suitable and Unsuitable) to pay much attention to what anyone else wants for her and blindly follows her own path, regardless of the consequences. 

You see, this book is all about the cute. It is a magical sparkle pony of adorable rainbow puppies on a candy floss cloud of glitter. It is super cute boys meeting a super cute girl and falling in love with blushes and nose scrunches and flippy shiny flip hair. It is so saccharine it could give you diabetes. Luckily, the sugar coated lipgloss gloop is tempered with a storyline about – you guessed it – terrorism. 

Yeah, no – really.

And actually – it kind of worked. Had the book continued in the “he’s so cute! I want to stroke his hair!” vein, then it would have been a definite DNF. I hate fluffy romances and the main character Maya seemed to fall in insta love at the drop of a hat. However, because she’s Muslim (ish – more on that later) she’s subjected to horrible abuse. It’s awful to say, but it was the violence and borderline psychopathic hatred from some of her fellow students that kept me reading. This is an #ownvoices novel and I really got the impression that the Islamophobia represented in the book came from previous experience. Some of the scenes where Maya is targeted were upsetting but brilliantly written and gave the novel some depth.

As a character, Maya seemed quite two dimensional when it came to her emotions. She really fancied someone – then she didn’t. Then she decided it was because she liked another boy that the first one had to go. Then she became insta-friends with the first boy. Urgh. Who can turn their emotions on and off like that? Maya’s relationship with her parents was basically pretty uncaring – she spent an awful lot of time sneaking around behind their backs with absolutely NO GUILT whatsoever. Now, I can remember what it was like to be seventeen (just) and “staying with friends” when I was actually going to parties with boys and getting drunk but I always felt guilty about it, especially if I had to lie to their faces (in fact, there was no point because my mum would know instantly that I was up to something). Maya, however, gives no fucks. Bikini on, off to secluded swimming ponds with a boy from school, staying out overnight regardless of her parents getting crazy worried. Surely even the most self-centered teen would feel some kind of remorse? Even to my liberal western values she was way out of line.

This leads me to the cultural and religious representation depicted in the novel. Now, I am neither Indian nor Muslim so I can’t really say if the representation was realistic or not but as someone looking in the depiction of many of the characters, including Maya’s parents felt somewhat stereotypical. They literally only seemed to care about her getting married – I get that that’s still a big cultural issue but it’s not the only thing that Indian parents are about. Oh, and they liked to eat samosa and pakora and roti and why were these foods italicised like they were some exotic new thing that no-one has ever heard of? Is it because I’m British and Indian food is so widely available here, but not in the US? Answers on a postcard…

The other thing I found weird about the MayaBot is that if she hadn’t explicitly mentioned being a Muslim, you’d never know. Religion just isn’t part of her life – but then she’s shocked when a fellow Muslim drinks wine. It felt utterly incongruous to be so judgemental towards others but also completely guilt free about some of the things she’d been up to. It would have been nice to see a little bit more about religion within the book, especially to see how second generation immigrants blend their beliefs and cultural heritage with a more western lifestyle. 

Overall, I thought that Love, Hate and Other Filters was a pretty trashy quick read saved by the more hard hitting elements about Islamophobia and terrorism. Parts of the book were terrible, whole swathes of text were average-forgettable with just a few bits that were brilliant. 

Rating: An average two and a half lovestruck dumbass teens out of five.

Saccharine cute fluffy nonsense underpinned with tales of hatred and terrorism made this novel just about palatable. 

Please note that I read this book for free in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks Netgalley! I also read this novel as part of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2018 #10 Read a romance novel by or about a person of colour.  

 

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13 thoughts on “Review: Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

  1. hi, the book has a lot of issues, i am a muslim and i am also disappointed with the book but this part of your review, i’ve quoted is racist. “Oh, and they liked to eat samosa and pakora and roti and why were these foods italicised like they were some exotic new thing that no-one has ever heard of? Is it because I’m British and Indian food is so widely available here, but not in the US? Answers on a postcard…” it is still her culture, and it’s not English nor is it an English word, no matter how popular it may seem or how frequently it is being eaten, I mean I’m in Nigeria and different cuisines all over the world are also popular here. so it has to be italicized.

    no one knows i’m a muslim unless i tell them so, and it’s quite shocking to find out some muslims drink, despite the fact that many do it, it’s still shocking, so i understood where she was coming from, because some people may not take islam seriously but draw the line at eating pork, drinks and smoking. i draw the line at eating pork and smoking, but yes she was a bit harsh and judgemental, i’m not through with the book, but i know it’s going to have a poor rating from me.

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    1. Hi Lara, thanks for your comment. I’m sorry if you took offence at what I said, in no way did I intend to say anything racist. I simply meant that it seemed weird to have words italicised that relate to foods which are so mainstream you can buy them everywhere, from the local corner shop to the supermarket to the pub. I just wanted to know if Indian food was less freely available in the US?

      I get that the foods I mentioned relate to a specific culture but I don’t think it would be racist to not italicise them – unless I’m missing something? I mean, I wouldn’t expect pizza or fish and chips to be italicised?

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      1. Yes but they are English words, you feel me? These words that are italicised may not be recognized by native English readers and it being an Indian story, it can be explained better if there was a glossary. It’s typical in publishing of books where the main characters have other cultures and languages that are not English, to be written in italics, no matter what, at long as it isn’t English, and it’s identifying a culture or language that isn’t English, I believe it can be italicised.

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      2. I understand what you mean about publishers italicising words that might not be familiar to the reader but that was my point – these words are so familiar to me that it felt weird to highlight them.

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  2. hahaha omg- your first line made me laugh out loud, because I so relate! I mean, I obviously still like a lot of YA, but a fair amount of it makes me just think “nope! I’m not in high school anymore!” πŸ˜‚ I was just giggling through your entire review- “flippy shiny flip hair”- LOL! Also “It is so saccharine it could give you diabetes”- pahahaha! I will admit after your rainbows and puppies bit, the terrorism aspect came as a total shock! I’m glad it worked though- cos that easily could’ve been super off-putting. It’s great that it was done so well πŸ™‚ Maya does seem a bit all over the place (just insta-emotions are really not my jam) Umm yeah, I agree with you- even as a liberal westerner, there is a line and I don’t get why she’d just do these things with no guilt. Yeah that’s a strange thing to italicise- but like you, it might just be my Britishness which means I know what that is? it’s a shame that there were stereotypical elements incorporated into it and I think it’s a shame it didn’t explore a more nuanced approach. A lot of this seems all over the place tbh. Amazing review!

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    1. 😊 Thank you! Haha, I’m giving up on school age protagonist stories. They always feel unrealistic and I think a lot of authors think they can get away with crappy writing if it’s aimed at a younger audience too – obviously not all the time but I’ve definitely noticed a trend. Yeah it was a bit jarring to have a terrorism plot line thrown in but it worked surprisingly well. The insta emotions were annoying and Maya’s total lack of thought towards her parents was just weird – would you have run off and stayed out all night without your parents knowing where you were and not felt bad about it? Definitely a more nuanced approach would have been better. πŸ’œ

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      1. You’re welcome 😊 haha I get that! Oh gosh yeah I notice that too :/ That’s a relief! Yeah- I understand if her parents had been like the Dursleys or something- but it seems a little uncalled for! I mean, that seems to be a problem with a lot of YA in general (like, “why can’t I just put myself in this super dangerous situation without getting grounded? ahh I’m so misunderstood!”- sorry tangent lol!) Yeah for sure πŸ’œ

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      2. I totally agree. I find it weird that most of the authors must be my age, but they’re trying to think and talk like a teenager (with unfamiliar technology thrown in for good measure). I think that’s why a lot of it feels so off and characters are reduced to typical teenage traits.

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