Abdi Nazemian’s Like A Love Story is one of my all time favorite books; it completely blew me away and I’ve reread it several times, always finding new depths to the story and getting my heart broken for the characters. So The Chandler Legacies has been one of my most anticipated releases since I first heard of it and I was so happy and grateful for the chance to read an eARC of it thanks to SparkPoint. And while it’s a very different story from Like A Love Story, The Chandler Legacies and its wonderful characters definitely stole my heart too.
This is a beautiful, gripping and heartbreaking story following five students at a privileged elite boarding school. It’s both a dark tale revealing how they experience the toxic and abusive culture in different ways, as well as a hopeful and warm story about their dreams and hopes and friendships.
All of the five students get their own chapters to tell the story from different POVs: Beth who is a “townie” and doesn’t feel like she belongs neither in her new elite environment or at home in her old one, Sarah who desperately wants to succeed and build a new future for herself, Spence who is the privileged daughter of NYC elites but who wants to achieve things on her own, Freddy who has worked so hard to become an elite athlete, but who starts to doubt his life choices, and Ramin who has transferred to Chandler to escape the danger of being gay in Iran, only to find himself the victim of brutal hazing under the guise of tradition in the boys’ dorm. I really appreciated the diverse cast and the complexity of issues they all dealt with. Ramin resembles the author himself very much, and Abdi Nazemian has explained that the story is based on true events from his own youth, which makes these events even harder to read about.
Overall, this was quite a dark story (much darker than I had first expected), but Abdi Nazemian handled the story and the tough topics in such a delicate and realistic way. A lot of times there was a sense of hopelessness about how everything got silenced and how toxic behavior was even encouraged as part of the tradition, but with the Circle, a coveted writing group led by Professor Douglas, as the light in the darkness. It was so beautiful and wonderful to see how the writing sessions brought the five characters together and empowered them to be brave and true to themselves. This book is something of an ode to the power of the written word and how important friendship and to have a safe place in life is.
I immediately rooted for Ramin, Freddy and Spence, but Sarah took a little longer to warm up to. And sadly I never really felt like I got to know Beth. As a character she felt bland and didn’t add so much to the story. I think the story could have benefited from fewer POVs, where each character could have gotten more time and been more fleshed out. I would have loved to learn even more about the backgrounds of especially Ramin and Freddy, and Professor Douglas.
But all in all, this was such a gripping and poignant story that held me captivated all the way through and made me root for many of the characters. Even though it was so dark and showed all toxic sides of a culture build on silence, fear and nepotism, it also gave me so much hope and warm fuzzy feelings for the wonderful friendship and how the Circle members had each others’ backs. It was also a wonderful coming-of-age story and the character growths were absolutely amazing! The way they all, and especially Ramin, eventually dared to be true to themselves and stand up for their beliefs was such a hopeful and wonderful message.
Thank you to Sabrina Kenoun, SparkPoint Studio and NetGalley for the ARC. All opinions are my own and I am leaving my honest review voluntarily.
4.5 gripping stars rounding up to 5
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Like A Love Story is an amazing and gripping story about three somewhat misfit teenagers in New York City in 1989, trying to find out who they are and where they belong. It’s also such an important, necessary, story about the LGBTQ movement, the AIDS crisis and the ACT UP activism, giving voice to the heroes behind the formation of a queer community fighting for everyone’s right to be themselves against homophobia and prejudices. But most of all it’s a story about friendship, finding the courage to be true to who you are and learning to love and be proud despite all discrimination and cruelty around you.
“The most important four-letter word in our history will always be LOVE. That’s what we are fighting for. That’s who we are. Love is our legacy.”
The characters are amazing, so lovable and unique. I don’t even know where to start… There’s Reza, an Iranian boy who is new at school and terrified that someone will guess the truth he can barely acknowledge about himself; that he is attracted to boys. But all he knows of gay life are the media’s images of men dying of AIDS. Then there’s Art, the school’s only out teen and the flamboyant, rebellious son of wealthy and conservative parents, and Judy, an aspiring fashion designer and hopeless romantic. And last, but absolutely not least, Judy’s uncle Stephen, an ACT UP activist and Hollywood fanatic, dying of AIDS. Art and Judy have always been best friends, spending every Sunday night watching old movies at Uncle Stephen’s and telling each other absolutely everything. But, when Reza stumbles into their lives and starts dating Judy (and Art starts catching feelings), things get a little bit more complicated.
These characters are what made the story! I adored every single one of them as the story unfolded. Abdi Nazemian describs them with such integrity and empathy, allowing them to be real, with flaws and less likeable traits, and in a way that made you fall in love with them and break your heart when theirs did. Reza, Art, Judy and Stephen immediately seared themselves into my heart. And the side characters are just as loveable. Judy’s parents, Reza’s wonderful supportive and rebellious sister, and even Reza’s stepdad and stepbrother in the end.
And Madonna! This book is also a wonderful homage to Madonna. She’s almost like a character in the book, that’s how big her part is. I absolutely love how the importance Madonna has, and has always had, for the queer community and the courage to self-expression and individually, is so knowledgeable described. I couldn’t stop myself from humming her songs while reading, like a soundtrack.
The way Abdi Nazemian writes is simply amazing. This is such a fast read, I felt like I was flying through this book. From the very first page, the story just pulled me in and I couldn’t put it down. I read it feverishly and finished it in one sitting! The topic is heavy at times, with the fear of dying, the fear of condemnation and of being rejected and humiliated, but the way Abdi Nazemian writes about those who were dying is so respectful, yet honest and realistic. There is absolutely no glorification of AIDS, all the grit and horror that went along with it are kept real. I loved the detail with Uncle Stephen keeping a jar with jelly beans for each friend who has died. It’s not often that you find a new voice in YA literature, but the storytelling in this book is completely unique and refreshing. It’s so raw and honest, so vivid in the description of the fear of AIDS and discrimination, cruelty and violence, but also so hopeful and loving, so full of activism, friendship and community, courage and pride.
“Don’t forget me. Us. All of us. What we did. What we fought for. Our history. Who we are. They won’t teach it in schools. They don’t want us to have a history.”
Well, with this book, Abdi Nazemian has changed that. Uncle Stephen, Art, Reza and all others in the queer community of the late 80’s now have a history. A history that will be taught in schools.
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All 1 Star 2 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars 5 Stars Abbi Glines Abdi Nazemian Adam Silvera Adib Khorram Aiden Thomas Aisha Saeed Aislinn Brophy AJ Collins Alexandra Christo Alex Beltran Alexene Farol Follmuth Alexis Hall Alex Kelly Alex Sanchez Alice Dolman Alice Oseman Ali Hazelwood Alison Cochrun Al Riske Alwyn Hamilton Amanda Ferreira A. Meredith Walters Amy Aislin Amy Harmon Amy S. Foster Amy Spalding André Aciman Andy V Roamer Angie Thomas Annabeth Albert A. Poland Ashley Poston Ashley Woodfolk Ashlyn Kane Audrey Coulthurst Becca Fitzpatrick Becky Albertalli Benjamin Alire Saenz Beth Bolden Bill Konigsberg B.L. Maxwell Briar Prescott Bri Spicer Brooke Skipstone Cale Dietrich Casey McQuiston Cassandra Clare C.F. White C.G. Drews Charli Meadows Chris Bedell Ciara Smyth Clarissa Pattern C.L. Beaumont Colette Davison Colleen Hoover Crystal Frasier C.S. Pacat Daven McQueen David Biddle David Yoon Dean Atta Debbie McGowan Debbie Rigaud Debbie Schrack Deborah Harkness Delia Owens Deonn Tracy D.G. Carothers Dhonielle Clayton Douglas Stuart Dustin Thao Elisa A. Bonnin Elizabeth Acevedo Elizabeth Arroyo Elle Kennedy Elle Wright E. Lockhart Emily M. Danforth Emily Mims Erin Watt Ernest Cline Evan J. Corbin Eve Morton Everina Maxwell Evie Dunmore Felice Stevens Grace Williams Gwen Martin Hanya Yanagihara Hayden Stone Heather Truett H.E. Edgmon Hettie Bell Holly Black Hope Irving Hudson Lin Ingrid Sterling Jacqueline Lee Jacqueline Woodson Jamie Deacon Jandy Nelson Jax Calder Jay Hogan Jeanette Winterson Jeff Zentner Jenna Evans Welch Jenn Burke Jennifer E. Smith Jennifer G. Edelson Jennifer Gilmore Jennifer Iacopelli Jennifer Kropf Jennifer Niven Jenny Downham Jenny Han Jeremy Ray Jesse H. Reign Joelle Lynne John Green Jonny Garza Villa Julianne Donaldson Julian Winters Kacen Callender Kami Garcia Kara Leigh Miller Kasie West Kate Larkindale Katharine McGee Kathleen Mareé KD Casey Kendall Grey Kevin Van Whye Kiley Reid Kim Fielding Kim Holden Kim Liggett Kitty Bardot Kris Ripper K.S. Marsden Laura Hall Laura Pavlov Laura Silverman Lauren James Laurie Frankel Leah Johnson Lee Matthew Goldberg Leigh Bardugo Leylah Attar Lisa Henry Lisa Williamson Lisa Wingate Liv Rancourt Liz Plum Lola Noire Lynn Michaels Mackenzi Lee Madeline Miller Magdalena Di Sotru Maggie Doolin Maggie Stiefvater Malin Persson Giolito Malorie Blackman Margaret Stohl Marie Lu Mary E. Pearson Mason Deaver Matthew R. Corr Melina Marchetta Meredith Russo Miel Moreland Mila Gray Miranda Kenneally Moa Backe Astot Morgan James M. Tasia Nancy Garden Natalie Haynes Nicholas Sparks Nicola Yoon Nic Starr Nic Stone Nina Kenwood Nita Tyndall Nora Sakavic N.R. Walker Owen Lach Penny Aimes Phil Stamper Quinn Anderson Rachael Brownell Rachael Lippincott Rachel Hawkins Rainbow Rowell Ray Stoeve Renée Dahlia Rhiannon Wilde Riley Hart River Braun Roan Parrish Robin Gow Roseanne A. Brown Rowan MacKemsley Ruby Moone Ruta Sepetys Ryan La Sala Sally Green Sally Rooney Sarah J. Maas Sarah Waters Sarina Bowen Sasha Laurens Saundra Mitchell Saxon James Serena Bell Shannon O’Connor Sidney Bell Simone Elkeles Siryn Sueng Sophia DeRise Sophia Soames Sophie Gonzales S.R. Lane Stephen Chbosky Stephenie Meyer Steven Salvatore Susan Mac Nicol Suzanne Collins Tahereh Mafi Tal Bauer Tamara Girardi Teagan Hunter Terry J. Benton-Walker Tiffany D. Jackson Timothy Janovsky T.J. Klune T.L. Bradford Tobly McSmith Tomasz Jedrowski Tomi Adeyemi Val Wise Veronica Rossi Veronica Roth V.E. Schwab Victor Dixen Victoria Aveyard V.L. Stuart Wesley Chu Xan Van Rooyen Yamile Saied Méndez