Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel might mark the first time I've read a book with a heroine who shares my name. It's such a JARRING experience, I had no idea! Anyway, on to the actual book.
Leila has made it through most of high school staying under the radar—as an Iranian American, she deals with annoyances on a daily basis ("Where are you from? No, I mean where are you REALLY from?" and so on), and so while she's entirely aware of the fact that she likes girls, she hasn't come out, because she doesn't want to add another Layer Of Difficult to her life.
Also, she doesn't want her parents to find out. Because she knows that BEST CASE SCENARIO, they'll have a really hard time with it. Up until now, it hasn't been much of an issue, because she's never had a crush on anyone at school.
Enter the new girl in school, Saskia.
PARDON ME WHILE I MUPPET FLAIL AROUND THE ROOM.
I loved this book. It's smart and funny—I ended up reading a ton of it aloud to Josh, which is always a major sign that I'm loving a book—and it's just as much about friendship as it is about romance. The secondary characters are all well-developed, and the relationship and dialogue between Leila and her older sister is spot on. SPOT. ON. Her relationships with her parents—as a unit and as separate people—are lovely as well, in that there is complexity and there are travails, but SO MUCH WARMTH throughout.
I've seen complaints about the pacing of Leila's realizations about Saskia—why do I look up books that I love at GoodReads?—to which all I can really say is: DO YOU EVEN REMEMBER BEING A TEENAGER?
I mean... bad decisions are not exactly uncommon, and messed-up friendship/romances can be REALLY hard to walk away from at any age, ESPECIALLY when you're dealing with someone with an enormous amount of charisma. It's always easier to see that stuff from the outside, and points to Farizan for portraying the arc realistically.
Where I might go from here:
If You Could Be Mine, by Sara Farizan: Her debut, which largely deals with the trans community in Tehran. It got a boatload of starred reviews and inclusion on various lists and looks a lot more fraught, heart-wise, than Crush. I already requested it from the library.
Annie on My Mind, by Nancy Garden: Sooooo... I've never read this. I KNOW. I have no IDEA how that happened, it's a CLASSIC. OBVIOUSLY the situation must be rectified, stat.
Sons and Other Flammable Objects, by Porochista Khakpour: Story about an Iranian American family living in California, with a focus on post-9/11 life. I've seen it described as a comedy AND a tragedy, so... I'm guessing that the humor is dark?
Silhouette of a Sparrow, by Molly Beth Griffin: Historical about a girl working in a hat shop who has a romance with a flapper. TONS OF LIST INCLUSION AND HONORS. This one doesn't sound remotely similar tonally, BUT DID I MENTION THERE'S A ROMANCE WITH A FLAPPER?
I'm looking for more LIGHT, HUMOROUS #ownvoices stories starring queer girls—but I am having a hard time finding them. Ditto #ownvoices stories about the Iranian American experience—recommendations would be welcome!