My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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.
Tell me Again how a Crush should feel is a coming-of-age story about an LGBT POC teen – and has quite some diversity which is usually lacking in YA. The protagonist, Leila, is a second-generation Iranian American – a spunky teenage who has a dry sense of humor. She wants to blend in with her surroudings, while also wants to be free to express herself. Her primary fears with coming out are her conservative family – she believes they would kick her out of the house because homosexuality is not accepted in their community. Until a beautiful girl named Saskia arrives, she doesn’t think much about coming out. After that, it is a tumultous and emotional journey for her – to fall in love, know what love is, and what people really are.
The book touches on quite a few important issues like homophobia, racism, and heteronormativity, without being too serious about it. It is a light read, focused on our protagonist, and is not defined by her orientation, but rather by the experiences as a teenager. Without seeming too spoliery, all I can say is that it ended quite well, considering the stigma associated with homosexuality in many cultures. It is believable, and Lisa’s particular statements at the end about labels really gave a good message. I loved the voice, too – Leila is rendered wonderfully as a confused, but smart girl and her reactions to the situations, often in humor, or in shock, paints a very realistic picture. Ulitmately, what I want to say is that I enjoyed this book and enjoyed seeing her perspective.
Received an ARC from Algonquin Books via Netgalley. This in no way affects my opinions or reviews