By Katrina Young | Out on the Page
“Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel” is the charming second novel from Sara Farizan. Leila Azadi is the Iranian-American protagonist juggling high school, her traditional Iranian family and her maturing sexuality. Leila is “always trying to make the pieces fit” like a game of Tetris.
This book reads like most young adult stories, with Armstead Academy as the quintessential high school setting; the mean girls, the athletes, the intellectuals, and the often ignored and underestimated protagonist that eventually shocks everyone.
Although the book is predictable at times, that does not take away from the heart of the story. It is its predictability that makes it relatable and shows how “normal” LGBT students are with respect to their straight peers whilst still shedding light on issues that are unique to LGBT young adults.
Leila is concerned about being ostracized because of her sexuality on top of already feeling like she doesn’t fit in at school or at home. At school she is not one of the cool kids, she does not have an ounce of athleticism, and academics do not come easy, either. At home she lives under the thumb of her loving yet conservative parents while also being in the shadow of her perfect, over-achieving older sister.
In the midst of these struggles, Leila falls hard for new girl Saskia Lansing. We’ve all been through the all-consuming feelings of having a crush — the daydreaming, butterflies in your stomach, awkward stares, and becoming a blubbering mess — and Leila has it bad.
Saskia is beautiful, smart, fun loving, and independent — but a mean girl in disguise — who threatens to turn Leila’s world upside down in the worst way. Saskia is a character that I love to hate. Her questionable integrity is apparent early on but due to the haze of her crush Leila is oblivious to the dangers that come from loving her.
A series of humiliating and heart-wrenching events involving Saskia fortunately ends well for Leila. She is propelled towards personal growth and richer relationships with her friends and family despite having her heart broken. Leila learns that the people that love her will love her no matter what her sexuality, even her traditional, Iranian, conservative father who turns out to be “a teddy bear in a suit.” And of course, in the end Leila realizes the perfect girl for her was part of her life all along.
Sara Farizan brings a fresh take to an age-old tale. The storyline is engaging, honest, modern, and occasionally humorous. Her characters are diverse and fully developed making their lives believable and interesting. “Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel” is a good read for young adults and anyone looking for a coming out story with a happy ending.
—Katrina Young is the treasurer of the Multicultural LGBT Literary Foundation and a lover of LGBT literature. Follow her on Twitter @sapphicreader.