Hello again. Despite the odds being against me, I managed to squeeze in another book review! Thanks to Colored Pages for hosting this blog tour.
Title: Love From Mecca to Medina
Author: S.K. Ali
Publisher: Salaam Reads
Publication Date: October 18th, 2022
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Adam and Zayneb. Perfectly matched. Painfully apart. Adam is in Doha, Qatar, making a map of the Hijrah, a historic migration from Mecca to Medina and worried about where his next paycheck will come from. Zayneb is in Chicago, where school and extracurricular stresses are piling on top of a terrible frenemy situation and making her miserable.
Then a marvel occurs: Adam and Zayneb get the chance to spend Thanksgiving week on the Umrah, a pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, tracing the hijrah in real life, together. Adam’s thrilled, and Zayneb hopes for a spiritual reset—and they can’t wait to see each other.
But the trip is nothing like what they expect, from the appearance of Adam’s ex in their traveling group to the anxiety gripping Zayneb everywhere they go. And as one wedge after another drives them apart as they make their way from one holy city to another, Adam and Zayneb start to wonder: was their meeting just an oddity after all? Or can their love transcend everything else like the greatest marvels of the world?
I really loved Love from A to Z when it was released in 2019, so it was a treat to be able to catch up with Adam and Zayneb again, three years later in 2022 (I can’t believe it’s already been three years since Love from A to Z came out). It was interesting to reunite with them at a different period in their lives, where they are now young adults (in the common sense of the word, rather than what publishing uses to market teen literature). Accordingly, their responsibilities and priorities and stressors have shifted. Whereas Love from A to Z was their meet-cute story, Love from Mecca and Medina is the story that really tests their love and commitment to each other (having performed nikah, a ceremony declaring two people legally married under Islamic law).
Honestly, this book made me want to scream for a good portion of the story, not because it was badly written, but because of how terribly frustrating it was to watch Zayneb and Adam’s relationship fracture. It hurt because the conflict was so believable, resulting from their very human flaws. In an ideal world, everyone would communicate with their loved ones as much as possible and resolve their issues quickly before things snowball out of control. The reality is that being completely open can be difficult when we are grappling with our insecurities, worried about burdening loved ones with our problems or afraid of appearing weak and unattractive to the person we want to show our best side to. Or we might assume others are more self-assured than they really are and fail to notice when they are wavering or hurting. And instead of turning outward, we turn inward, falling into the trap of confirming our worst fears by projecting them onto everything we observe. Zayneb and Adam are plagued by these issues during their trip, and they are exacerbated by the fact that they want to take full advantage of the Umrah to have the perfect spiritual experience that will give them the clarity they seek, but those relationship issues keep interfering. Both have to work through their respective issues, push aside the distractions, and reorient their Muslim faith before they can face each other honestly.
Aside from the emotional realism of our main characters, there were also various elements of the story that appealed to me. One was the chapter headers, each featuring an “artifact” from Adam and Zayneb’s trip (such as souvenirs, clothing, travel items, etc.), accompanied by an “interpretive label” that kind of felt like receiving a message in a bottle. Each artifact and interpretive label serves as a thematic or affective anchor for the chapter in question, a guidepost for Adam and Zayneb’s story as well as a brief note-to-the-reader to ground oneself in the face of the emotional turmoil playing out on the page (and perhaps also in the reader’s life). Another aspect I enjoyed was the use of Adam and Zayneb’s cat, Bertha Fatima Chen-Malik, as a narrative device in the beginning, interludes, and end. It was both cute and created a feeling as if you were peeking into Adam and Zayneb’s lives with their cat’s permission.
Overall, I think Love from Mecca to Medina is a beautiful story about falling apart and then finding your way back to what matters, a story that anyone, Muslim or not, can see a glimpse of themselves in.
About the Author
S. K. Ali is the author of Saints and Misfits, a finalist for the American Library Association’s 2018 William C. Morris Award and the winner of the APALA Honor Award and Middle East Book Honor Award; and Love from A to Z, a Today show Read with Jenna Book Club selection. Both novels were named best YA books of the year by various media including Entertainment Weekly and Kirkus Reviews. She is also the author of Misfit in Love and Love from Mecca to Medina. You can find Sajidah online at SKAliBooks.com and follow her on Instagram @SKAliBooks, TikTok @SKAliBooks, and on Twitter at @SajidahWrites.
- Goodreads —https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15615126.S_K_Ali
- Twitter — https://mobile.twitter.com/sajidahwrites
- Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/skalibooks/
Blog Tour Schedule
Amani’s Honest Reviews – Playlist
Melancholic Blithe – Review Only
The._bookarazzi – Review Only
sanjariti reads – Review Only
Letters to the Void – Mood board + recommendation
Zainab Chats – Review Only
My World of Wonders – Review Only
The Keysmash Blog – Review Only
READING (AS)(I)AN (AM)ERICA – Review Only
Readingwithprachi – Playlist
Delilah Here’s To You – Playlist
the moonchild pages – Journal Spread
Cassiesbookshelves – Book recommendations based on the book
The Book Witch Of Hogwarts – Review Only
Desolateblogs – Review + artwork
Ramblings – Playlist
The Girl In Blue Reads – Review Only