Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They've shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.
So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin's parents announce that they've arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.
Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution. In Iran, homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman’s body is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. As a man, Sahar could be the one to marry Nasrin. Sahar will never be able to love the one she wants, in the body she wants to be loved in, without risking her life. Is saving her love worth sacrificing her true self?
The drama of being in a gay relationship has never been scarier than set in a country where it is not only illegal, but punishable by death. Overall, it was a bit of a weird, but refreshingly original, subject matter. I liked the drama, the background stories, even the setting of Iran as it gave some new insights into their culture. But their love story seemed forced. I'll get to that later.
Set in a country I know next to nothing about, about forbidden love and brave, life-altering choices, I fell into this world easily. But I did have my nitpicks about it, which was annoying. I know I should have loved this and many parts I did. I instantly felt for Sahar, feeling trapped in a society where she can't be herself, so insecure but so sure of her love for Nasrin. I can admire that. But Nasrin was spoilt, a drama-queen, and occasionally manipulative at the expense of Sahar.
Because they were already "in love", I didn't get their progressive love story and I missed that. Also, we were supposed to believe that they were in love and had been for years but I got the impression that Nasrin didn't really love Sahar, just liked the attention. Having said that, I think it was incredibly brave of Sahar to even consider changing sex for Nasrin, although I was waiting for it to fall through because, let's face it, Sahar didn't seem to think it through properly. Especially as she didn't discuss it with Nasrin and she just shoved it back in her face. I really didn't want Sahar to make such a huge sacrifice for someone who didn't appear to appreciate it.
Although I didn't quite believe the love story, I liked just about everything else about this: the reality of an oppressive state and what dangers that entails when you're different; the Persian words and phrases slipped effortlessly into the narrative; the underbelly of transsexualism and even what it means to be a woman in such a strict country. It was thought-provoking and a very brave story.
Published 20th August 2013 by Algonquin Young Readers. Thank you to the publisher and Netgally for my copy in exchange for an honest review.