Why did I read a YA romance novel? Oh yeah, because I thought it was something else.
Love, Hate & Other Filters follows seventeen-year-old Maya. She comes from an Indian Muslim background and is at odds with her parents. They want her to go to school close to home, become a lawyer, and make a suitable match. She wants to go to NYU, study film, and chase after her high school non-Indian crush.
I am glad this book exists because it represents one of the many kinds of Muslims in the US. Maya’s family are a cultural kind of Muslim where they are VERY Indian and also Muslim. Unfortunately, the representation here has serious issues with it. One thing is that her parents’ portrayal could not have been any more stereotypical. There was zero nuance to it. (The one part of the parents’ portrayal that rang true to me was the ending.) Also, Maya doesn’t seem to be struggling with her Indian-ness or her Muslim-ness; she’s struggling with her parent’s Indian-ness and Muslim-ness. And while Maya expresses a respect for her parent’s culture, she doesn’t once grapple with her intentions as a Muslim. The fact that she’s Muslim never plays into a single one of motivations. In that sense, I found the way this novel was promoted frustrating. Maya’s crisis with her parents is one part of the story.
The other part of the story is about Islamophobia in Maya’s community. Between chapters, there are vignettes that describe another series of events unrelated to Maya’s story. These little snippets were really well done and I appreciated the way that they speak to the idea of lenses and filters. We’re all looking at events through a lens, whether we realize it or not. This novel has a plot twist, and the fact that I didn’t see it coming really says a lot about my own personal filters.
I was dragging my feet to finish this book because it is at heart a romance, and romance is my least favorite genre. But that’s my problem–not the book’s. This book could also have been blurbed: “Maya has always thought of herself as uninteresting and normal looking. Now, two guys are interested in her! One represents what her parents want for her and one represents her heart. Which will she choose?” Is that reductive of the book? Yes. But it’s pretty accurate, and that, to me, is sad.
Love, Hate & Other Filters is published by Soho Teen (2018) and you can get a copy here.