Disturb: interfere with the normal arrangement or functioning of; cause to feel anxious; interrupt the sleep, relaxation, or privacy of
Of all these definitions the interruption of privacy may be the most appropriate for Medeia Sharif's shocking new book. When Haydee Gomez and Maysa Mazari fall in love, they hide their forbidden relationship, knowing their peers and families will be surprised, angry, and even hurt. Unfortunately, they underestimate the consequences and what happens is no less than cataclysmic.
This tragic couple is composed of polar opposites. Haydee, covered in tattoos, is ashamed of her past participation in a gang and is terrified that people will discover she is a prostitute. On her first day in a new school she meets Maysa, someone kind, beautiful—and wearing a hijab.
The characters' differences extend well beyond physical appearances. Haydee’s family is nice but remote, ghosts in the background, relatives who neither hold her back nor know her enough to intrude when they should. Freedom has left her alone.
On the other hand, Maysa is under strict control. Her mother trots out suitors for a future marriage she doesn't want, and her father criticizes her every move. Maysa’s rigid life is one of tremendous pressure to be the perfect daughter, the perfect student, and to always keep her hijab tight. Surrounded by three seemingly loyal friends in a clique where non-Muslims aren’t allowed, Maysa despairs that she'll never get a chance to get close to Haydee.
This striking dichotomy in the girls' family life is balanced by what they share. Along with Maysa and Haydee's budding romance (which Sharif handles delicately, but believably), each girl must contend with a villain who threatens to destroy their new relationship.
Maysa’s enemy is the super-nasty Aamal, the leader of her Muslim clique. Haydee’s nemesis is her pimp, Rafe. Sharif pulls no punches in describing the horrors of forced prostitution. As with 52 Likes, this is no tame “after-school special” type of story. Conflict is not resolved with the villains recognizing the error of their ways and everyone exchanging hugs at the end. No sir. In the last third, the tale plunges into dark territories. Which I wouldn't dare spoil here. It's just too juicy.
If there is any criticism, for me it would be a bit of reader spoonfeeding. Major plots points are reiterated along the way, dialogue occasionally steps beyond what I would expect of a character in order to justify or explain something, and characters' feelings are stated even though the situations and the character reactions make this unnecessary. Then again, the target audience is YA. Like Haydee and Maysa, with their noses pressed to their cell phones every other minute, these writerly helpmates may be exactly what teens need to hook back into the story.
Overall, A Love That Disturbs is an important book about tolerance. Tolerance for Muslims, tattoos, and people with a dark past. And tolerance for peoples’ choices, like being gay—an especially timely message considering recent events. Highly recommended.
A LOVE THAT DISTURBS by Medeia SharifEvernight Teen, June 17, 2016
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