Heading Out Review
The trope of a bully blackmailing a closeted queer person is nicely installed in YA. Arvin Ahmadi’s How It All Blew Up makes an fascinating addition to the canon of such stories. We’re delivered to recent high school graduate Amir in an airport interrogation room, as he recounts the closing 12 months of his life to very affected person Customs and Border Protection agents.
During senior year, of Amir’s longtime bullies find out his mystery courting with Jackson, a touchy football player, and demand that he pay them off with money he earns online. When they get greedy, Amir feels trapped, afraid of exposing his sexuality to his conservative Muslim own family. With logic that best a desperate teen should make feel of, he makes a run for it and unearths himself in scenic Rome.
Ahmadi blows through the entirety of Love, Simon in this setup, and thank goodness, because once the acquainted signposts of the trope fall away, the story actually shines. Amir explores his identity and desires along along with his new surroundings. He makes older queer pals who train him approximately Nina Simone and “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” takes Italian lessons and events into the wee hours of the morning. His new friends end up a chosen own family of mentors whose help any young outsider would be happy to have on their journey to self-discovery. The relationships Amir builds with those characters are definitely the spotlight of the novel.
Amir can be a frustrating protagonist, however Ahmadi authentically depicts the developing pains of a younger queer man or woman reconciling his sexual orientation with the expectations of communities—LGBTQ and Muslim. The end result is sometimes awkward but usually brimming with sincerity. “It’s this kind of privilege, you know?” Amir reflects. “To get to be yourself, all of yourself, on this great big world.”