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. From Goodreads.
I've wanted to read Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan for quite a while, so when it came up in Dahlia Adler's Book Club for February, it was the perfect chance to pick it up. Tell Me Again is a sweet, lovely story, but it left me feeling only lukewarm.
Leila has so far managed to keep her sexuality a secret from everyone, something she's pleased about, because she doesn't need any more attention than she already gets for being Iranian American. But when the beautiful Saskia starts at her school and wants to be her friend, Leila finds it really difficult to hide the fact that she now has a crush. But when it looks like Saskia might fancy her too, Leila finds herself going along with whatever Saskia wants to do, no matter the trouble it will get them in. Leila's former best friend Lisa, now part of the popular crowd, has been struggling to come to terms with her brother's death, and Leila reaches out to try and comfort her. Slowly their friendship begins to recover, and she finds, when she signs up for the school play, that there are friends she never thought she would have got on with to be found there as well. Her new friends are there for her when Saskia goes from hot to cold and back again, but how will her family react if they discover she's a lesbian?
For a book that has a fair amount happening, Tell Me Again didn't really feel like it. Leila is dealing with her feelings for Saskia and Saskia's strange behaviour, getting to know her new friends as well as keeping her current ones from being annoyed with her, and worrying about how her traditional, conservative Iranian parents will treat her if they ever found out about her sexuality. A lot is happening, but I was thinking for most of the book, "When is something going to happen?" The pace of the story stayed steady, no matter what was happening; there were no real highs of excitement or lows of fear for me as a reader, despite Leila having both for herself. Farizan's writing style kept me gripped, but the pace of the story left me wanting more.
Saying that, Tell Me Again was a really interesting story. It has a great cast of characters; Tess and Greg, Leila's current friends, Taryn, Christina and Simone, the theatre tech crew, and Tomas who is made an understudy and stage manager with her, and Lisa, Leila's former best friend. Then there's Saskia who is fascinatingly vile. She's a bully and she's terrible, but I have a feeling she has her own issues; it would be interesting to see her story. What I loved about this book was how Leila making new friends with the tech crew, Tomas, and Lisa didn't take away from her friendships with Tess and Greg. All her friends are important to her in different ways, and no-one gets left behind. The only reason Leila tries to keep Tess and Greg from being annoyed with her is because Tess fancies Greg, and Greg fancies Leila, and it can make things awkward.
I found learning the little we did about Persian culture really interesting; the party and the wedding, where a large group of Iranian people got together, were fascinating, but we learnt more simply from Leila's home life. For the main, it came through in Leila's concern about how her parents would react to her sexuality - she doesn't just have to come out to her parents, she has to come out to Iranian parents, who come from a country that have very strict views on sexuality. She already knows a mother and father from her Iranian community kicked out their son when they found out he was gay, and she's terrified of what will happen to her if her parents find out.
"Lisa, you don't understand. It would hurt them. I've already disappointed them. My father is desperate for me to be a doctor. They'd probably kick me out. You know where they're from, being gay is illegal? They imprison people over there for feeling like I do! Sentence them to death sometimes." (p212-213)I have to say I struggled a little with the main romance of this book, but to discuss it would spoil the story, so look or don't look.
Lisa comes out and tells Leila she's always had feelings for her. It's almost like now there's another option for Leila rather than being on her own, and suddenly she's interested, where she didn't even consider Lisa beforehand. She didn't fancy her, didn't think she was attractive, nothing. They weren't really friends, then they kind of were, then Lisa tells her the truth about why she stopped being her friend, and now all of a sudden, Leila has feelings for Lisa. It just seemed so conveniant. I never really believed how Leila felt for Lisa as their relationship developed, because it just came out of nowhere.
The romance is really sweet, though; lovely and not too heavy. A pretty light f/f romance. I just struggled with it.
Although I was disappointed with Tell Me Again, I did find the Persian culture and the beliefs regarding sexuality interesting, so I'm really looking forward to giving Farizan's first book a go, If You Could Be Mine a read, a f/f romance set in Iran.
Published: 6th October 2015
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
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