Last year, during our The Future is Queer book club event, we were introduced to the sweet and complicated world of Farah Naz Rishi with her debut novel, I Hope You Get This Message. She returns next week with a decidedly different but still warmly familiar follow up: It All Comes Back to You.
IHYGTM sits firmly on the edge of an apocalypse; aliens have made contact with Earth and time is quickly slipping away. It All Comes Back to You is firmly planted in another kind of apocalypse: being a teenager. Kiran is seeing her world slip through her fingers as her beloved sister, Amira, announces that she is dating someone special and plans to move across the country following her graduation from law school. Kiran is heartbroken, as she has been plotting, planning, and hoping for the day that Amira graduates and moves with her to the city.
Kiran is deep, deep down the rabbit hole of teenage dreaming and scheming, and when things do not immediately work out the way that she has been planning in her head, her real life starts to crumble- and she is going to take down with her anyone who stands in her way. I do not miss being a teenager, but I do enjoy looking back on these thought processes as an older and wiser elder millennial!
Here’s the thing, though. The guy that Amira has fallen for isn’t just any guy- he’s a guy with a secret. Since this is a novel about teens, some secrets are very big and not entirely secret, while others are tiny but brutal. Many circumstances could be cleaned up quite easily were people to tell the truth, but what story features teens telling the truth? What rom-coms (or rom-drams, for that matter) tell the truth from the get-go?
None of them!
The initial secret, a secret to the characters but not to the reader (don’t worry- no spoilers) is that Amira’s new boyfriend, Faisal, is the older brother of Kiran’s ex-boyfriend, Deen.
Kiran and Deen ended on very bad terms and have not been in contact since the fatal ghosting of the relationship…
or have they?
Not only do we have classic will/they-won’t theys and easily-solved-but-necessary-complications a-plenty, but they have been crafted with care in homage to the life-long classics of You’ve Got Mail, Cinderella Story and Pride and Prejudice – just to name a few. Kiran and Deen are also steeped deeply in the world of MMORPGs, remix culture, and classroom dynamics. They are glued to their phones and glued to each other. Most importantly, It All Comes Back to You steps beyond beloved tropes and hoped-for plot points to deliver a thoughtful, informative, and earnest depiction of life for young Muslim-American people.
I am, as mentioned above, an old, white, millennial. I was going to list my credentials as a knower-of-diverse-things, then realized how utterly ridiculous I was being. It doesn’t matter who I’ve known and the like- it matters that the lives of the teens (and their families) in this novel are very much unlike my own upbringing, and this was an excellent primer on being a young Muslim in America. Farah Naz Rishi is Pakistani-American, and she imbues every page with love for the music, language, religious tradition, dance, and food of a large group of incredible people who are often represented as stereotypes – or even more frequently not represented at all.
I look forward, once again, to whatever Farah Naz Rishi next wishes to share with our curious world.
Huge thanks to the fine folks at Sparkpoint Studio for reaching out with an ARC! I received this in exchange for a fair and honest review.