Maya Aziz is a Muslim girl who dreams of going to NYU for their film class. She loves being able to shoot all these big events and have them in her files for memories and edits to make all sorts of adventures. When it’s revealed she doesn’t know how to swim, a guy named Phil who apparently already has a girlfriend offers to teach her in his very special place, while at the same time their family has found her a guy named Kareem. (Don’t worry, there’s no arranged marriage stuff here. Just a good friend and partner possibility.) But when there’s yet another terrorist attack on the other side of the world, Maya must deal with the pressure facing her once again as the odd-girl-out, which threatens to tear her family, hobby and life apart.
The book places in all the contemporary conflicts. There are a few very serious fights about being able to go to NYU, there’s a time where Maya needs to be by herself and freaks everyone out by doing so. Samira Ahmed brings in an actually scary school bully and good descriptions of the food she eats. She has put in all the right ingredients. The problem is she’s unintentionally minimized them, creating a book too short and uninvolved to allow any of its conflicts to actually spark.
Some praises of this book was the feel of having a Muslim lifestyle. The problem I found was, that seemed to only stem from some very short food listings that don’t mention the ingredients much, and a familiar remark about what happens after there’s a terrorist attack. That might’ve been the point, to show the world Muslims and everyone else aren’t so different after all. If that was Ahmed’s intention, I’m sorry, but it just felt similar to the point of feeling typically North American.
Here’s a situation that in a way encapsulates most of this book: There’s a scene where Maya is attacked, and it really is frightening. I loved how real Ahmed’s writing felt. But there’s a fact that we’re supposed to not be thinking much of but is advertised too much before the big blow. Not only that, after the debacle is over, the people immediately mention this side detail, which works extremely in Maya’s favour. What I wish could’ve happened was make it sneaky; make it so when the attacker is seen, no words even mention the side object, and not say a word about it until ‘Ta-Da! Gotcha! You forgot all about that!’ Showing the cleverness of a mystery novel was an opportunity Ahmed missed out on.
And look. I know in the summary, I talked about the attack, but it kind of stalls. I was surprised how long it actually takes for everything to blow up. Ahmed took her time and let us get to know Maya’s world a little bit before diving right in, but we end up waiting so long it gets annoying, and the kicker is how underwhelming it is, especially considering how there was nothing Maya could’ve done to stop the attack, but apart from the tiniest thing that isn’t really utilized, this attack didn’t have anything to do with her. And the most laughable thing is how a documentary is being watched in school, then the principal puts the school on lockdown and asks everyone to close their doors. Then the teacher says, while everyone’s hidden from the doors, that they’ll continue watching the film. Um...that’s downright silly.
But even though it has all those problems and is way too short to allow the gravity of being a Muslim teen in a country that doesn’t like you to really pull, there were still some very effective fights between the parents, and good movie references, and I was almost going to recommend it. But remember the time I hated The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury? I said in that review that even though I had a bad time reading it, there was some faint interest in my head to find out what happened next and if something would be solved. Then the epilogue shoved something featuring that question in my face, erasing the desire to even touch the next book. Same here, I’m afraid. The epilogue does something extremely stupid without any buildup expected.
Love, Hate, and Other Filters, is, I’m sorry to say, in my opinion, an attempt to send the same anger and heartbreak and important thoughts as Angie Thomas brought us with The Hate U Give, and the lasting impression that’s delivered is not all the different ways the book could’ve gone down, but instead all the different ways the book could’ve been better.