Book Review: Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel – Sara Farizan

tell-me-again-how-a-crush-should-feel-sara-farizan-book-review

Title: Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel (2014)
Author: Sara Farizan
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT
Extent: 304 pages
Release Date: October 7, 2014
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Goodreads Description

High-school junior Leila has made it most of the way through Armstead Academy without having a crush on anyone, which is something of a relief. Her Persian heritage already makes her different from her classmates; if word got out that she liked girls, life would be twice as hard.

But when a sophisticated, beautiful new girl, Saskia, shows up, Leila starts to take risks she never thought she would, especially when it looks as if the attraction between them is mutual. 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.

Review

I’ve read Sara Farizan’s other book, If You Could Be Mine, before and while I didn’t love it, I appreciated the thought that went into it and its exploration of what being gay in Iran is like. Unlike that book, Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel takes place in America and follows Leila, a Persian teenager who recently realised she is gay. Sounds like a good premise? I thought so, but I didn’t really enjoy this book.

My main problem with this story is mainly how simple it is. The characters all feel very one-dimensional, the plot shallow and also very single-lined. It feels like characters only grow when on a scene, and out of the story, they’re forgotten completely. Even Leila, the protagonist, doesn’t have much of a personality: she comes across as a blank slate to me and just wasn’t that interesting.

“How do people do this? How do people work up the courage to be themselves even if it means facing rejection from people who love them? Why don’t people get medals for this?”

Technically, Leila struggles with quite a bit in this book: her feelings for confusing new girl Saskia, coming out to her friends, coming out to her family — issues that, when given enough depth, have the potential to be eye-opening and touching. Yet none of these things actually have any sort of impact on me. I read on because I’m really bad at fighting sunk-cost fallacy, but I didn’t feel engaged.

One thing I do have to commend, though, is how Farizan manages to include elements of Persian culture in this book. It was very enjoyable and interesting to see Leila interact with her culture, whether it be thinking about it or talking to others from her family and family friends. The characters in this book are also diverse — we’ve got a mix of characters with different races, ethnicities, sexualities, identities, etc.

“I want to stop living in fear. I want to stop coming up with excuses about why I’m not interested in dating. I want my family to know me. I want to get to learn more about Lisa. I want to stop feeling like everything I am is inadequate or makes me unworthy of love because of something I can’t help.”

Overall, though, I can’t say that I enjoyed reading Tell Me Again. The themes it explores might be important, but the storytelling isn’t polished enough for me to really recommend the book. Sara Farizan’s other work, If You Could Be Mine, is a lot more interesting and enjoyable.

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30 thoughts on “Book Review: Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel – Sara Farizan

  1. I completely agree; this was not a well-written lesbian romance, which is a damn shame.

    I’ll admit to rating it on a bit of a curve, simply because of its lesbian woman of color protagonist. And, hey, at least the book didn’t seriously piss me off! Looking back, I can’t remember what, if anything, was enjoyable about it; I’ve forgotten most of it, and the rest are all negatives. Oh, well.

    It’s good to hear that If You Could Be Mine is better; I’ve been putting off reading it because of how disappointing Tell Me Again was. Thanks for giving me the hope and motivation to finally get around to it! =)

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    • Thanks, Liam! I can relate – I’m always tempted to give books like this a bit of a boost in the rating because of the ~unique~ themes, but I feel like as narratives like this (hopefully) get a bit more common, they… ah, not lose their uniqueness, but just become “normalised”, you know? I’m getting all of my terms mixed up here. 🙉

      But yeah, I’d definitely recommend If You Could Be Mine more – it’s not amazing, unfortunately, but I think it was more enjoyable and had a bit more depth than this one. I hope you get the chance to check it out eventually. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh no, that’s a shame that book wasn’t as good as it seemed to be. I really liked the synopsis, but yes, with a story like that, characters need to have depth and make me feel things for me to fall in love with the book too :/ Lovely review, I hope your next read will be better 🙂

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  3. It’s a shame this book wasn’t a success for you Reg, especially because considering the topics it deals with if it had been better written I guess it could have been amazing. There aren’t too many diverse books out there compared to all the others on the bookshelves so it would have been great to have a book about coming out and dealing with all that entails that also had an engaging plot and developed characters.
    I’ll definitely check out If You Could be Mine though, that one sounds interesting as well and from the sound of your review sounds like a better story as well! 😀

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    • I actually DNF books quite liberally (haha) but something kept me going with this one! I think it was because I was past the 50% mark when I decided it just wasn’t working for me, and it’s such a short book and took not a lot of time. Thank you, though. 😘

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          • Oh, I know. I feel it too, and that’s why most of the time I push forward. I did it with Shattered Lives: Broken Dreams by Rissa Blakely bc it was a RaR book, but it was all zombie sex. ::shivers:: I only read it bc I promised a review, even though I was banging my head against the way after awhile. It was so long and it was sex, little plot, sex, little plot, sex, sex, sex. Ugh. I’m not into Erotica, you know?

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              • Yeah, there was a semblance of a plot…basically, the guy was a zombie and he had to drink blood (yeah, I know…no brains, but blood like a vamp) to keep him from turning. When he drank the blood he got super horny. Oh, and he married this chick (the main character) and kept it from her until the “zombie virus” gets out and starts turning everyone. It wasn’t horrible, but it was weird. And there was WAY TOO MUCH sex. And it was loooong. And there’s already like, two other books in the series. That are also long.
                It ended with a cliffhanger which made me want to keep reading, but I don’t think I could deal with all that sex again. If she removed 75% of the sex and replaced it with story, the book would’ve been good. Hell, if she took out 75% of the sex, the book probably wouldn’t be so damn long! 😂

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                • That… doesn’t sound like a healthy marriage, but I digress. Are they the end-game couple? 😛

                  I can totally understand. I’m OK with sex scenes, but there comes a point where they really take over the book, and when I signed up for a “romance” (instead of, like, an erotica), I do expect the characters to also be romancing each other in ways other than the physical! 😂

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