Maysa Mazari is alarmed by her mother’s talk about arranged marriage. As a hijab-wearing Pakistani-American, she wants to find love on her own. Her judgmental Muslim clique has protected her from racist taunts, although the leader is turning on her as Maysa strays from the group because of her attraction to Haydee.
Haydee Gomez is a former gang member and juvenile detention student. Now living with a clean-cut aunt, she wants to turn her life around, even though one person will never let her forget her roots—Rafe, her abusive pimp. Haydee attempts to pull away from a life of prostitution when she develops feelings for Maysa, although Rafe isn’t willing to give her up too easily.
Finding themselves in danger from Maysa’s friends and Haydee’s pimp, it’s apparent their love disturbs everyone around them as they fight to stay together.
16+ due to sexuality, adult situations, and violence
At least Rafe wouldn’t bother her for a few hours. He knew it was her first day in a new school. Haydee blew her nose, wiped her eyes, and left the bathroom. She walked into first period English and handed the teacher the pass. Students stared. A few had tattoos peeking from the edges of sleeves and shorts, but nothing like what she had. She felt like the Tattooed Woman and avoided staring back at them. She wasn’t in alternative school anymore, where most students had a nasty attitude about anything related to academics. The students in front of her had their books open and had been reading and writing before she’d walked in. They weren’t looking to fight her and she wasn’t going to fight them.
“Let me write your name down,” the teacher said. “I’ll make a folder for your work. How do you say your name? Heidi?”
“No, it’s Hay-dee,” she corrected Ms. Tookes. “Haydee Gomez.”
Ms. Tookes wrote her name on a notepad and nodded toward an empty desk, so Haydee sat down in a seat in the back with a textbook. The assignment was on the board, but Haydee had trouble seeing. She had lost or broken so many of her eyeglasses in the past that she’d stopped wearing them. She was slightly nearsighted and lived with her blurry vision just fine. Tomorrow she’d come to class on time and get a seat in the front.
She continued to receive some stares, but then students went back to work.
Feeling like she was on display, Haydee twirled the drawstrings of her hoodie, chewed the inside of her mouth, and smoothed down the baby hairs on her forehead. The door opened and she was grateful for another distraction. It was Maysa, her pink-and-green silk scarf glistening under the fluorescent lights. Haydee’s vision sharpened, as if she could see Maysa clearly, while everything around her was fuzzy. Maysa caught Haydee’s gaze and smiled before turning to Ms. Tookes. “May I take a few pictures of the students working?”
The teacher smiled back. “Take all the pictures you want.”
Maysa had a sunny, innocent demeanor. Haydee wondered what it would be like to have her life. She must have two parents taking care of her. She probably had brothers and sisters who were as nice as she was. Her parents were strict, if she had to cover her head like that, but they most likely were loving. Haydee’s curiosity intensified. She needed to know more about Maysa, who was walking to the back of the room where she was.
“Can I take a picture of you reading the textbook?” Maysa asked.
“Sure.” Anything. She wanted to please this girl. Haydee opened to a random page. It was a Shakespearean sonnet, which was like another language to her. She liked to read, but not classic works. She enjoyed romance books and read any that she could get her hands on. They helped her escape from her own reality by taking her someplace else for a few hours.
Flashes sparked as Maysa took a few shots of Haydee. “You’re very photogenic.”
“Really?” Haydee looked up. “Let me see.”
Maysa neared her and held the back of the camera to Haydee’s face. Looking at the screen, Haydee saw she didn’t look too bad. Her bun was messy in a stylish way, and her head was tilted down to her book. Her cheekbones were sharp, and her right side was on display—not the left one with the black eye. “It’s a nice shot.”
Maysa smiled, and Haydee blinked, not knowing what else to say or do. She wanted to keep Maysa talking so that she wouldn’t leave right away. Because of the picture taking, a few other students had started talking and sneaked looks at the two of them. Haydee knew they must seem like an odd pair interacting with each other. Maysa showed her the next few pictures, at different angles. “I have to go now and get to the next classroom,” she said.
“Oh, all right.” Her gaze was riveted to Maysa’s slender form as she walked out the door.
Haydee’s phone vibrated again. When the teacher wasn’t looking, she slid it out of her pocket.
Got a nice dress for you tonight
Come to my place later so you can try it on
Red, your perfect color
And just like that, the moment was ruined. She shoved her phone back into her pocket. Like she needed another reminder of everything that was wrong in her life. She gritted her teeth and made fists, then forced herself to loosen her hands. She didn’t want to think about Rafe anymore, but how could she not? He was like a virus in her system and she couldn’t get rid of him. She admitted that he took care of her: he beat up johns who mistreated her, handed over any money he promised her, and challenged anyone who bothered her on the rough streets of Miami.
If it hadn’t been for Rafe, she might have been dead at one point, because one of the johns locked her in a bathroom, threatening to kill her later, and he took care of the situation. There were still the issues of earning money and a degree of safety, but surely she could find another line of work. How would she tell Rafe that she wanted out without having his temper explode? She had seen him cut a man’s face with a razor. Would he do the same to her?
Posted by Astilbe on 22nd Sep 2016
Their love is about to be put to the test.
Haydee and Maysa were fascinating main characters. I liked the fact that the plot switched between their perspectives every time a new chapter started. That helped me to get to know both of them really well, especially when they took turns describing what happened in the same scene from their unique points of view. It was also interesting to see how their impressions of each other were different from how they thought of themselves. Seeing each of them from both perspectives gave them the chance to show off parts of their personalities that I might not have otherwise noticed.
I would have liked to see a little more time developing Maysa and Haydee’s relationship before it became serious. While I loved them as a couple, certain parts of their romance felt a bit rushed to me. They had a lot of other stuff going on in their lives at the same time they started developing feelings for each other. As much as I wanted them to end up together, I was surprised by how quickly their friendship transformed into a romantic relationship. It didn’t seem like something that either one of them would jump into even though I was glad to see that their feelings for each other were mutual.
The dialogue in this book was really well done. Not only did all of the conversations feel completely natural, they changed in subtle but important ways as the characters learned from their experiences. At times it felt like I was eavesdropping on someone else’s life instead of reading a fictional story because of how many different layers there were to even the simplest conversations.
A Love That Disturbs was a gripping tale. I couldn’t put it down until I knew how it ended!
Posted by Tamara Narayan on 13th Jul 2016
Disturb: interfere with the normal arrangement or functioning of; cause to feel anxious; interrupt the sleep, relaxation, or privacy of
Of all these definitions the interruption of privacy may be the most appropriate for Medeia Sharif's shocking new book. When Haydee Gomez and Maysa Mazari fall in love, they hide their forbidden relationship, knowing their peers and families will be surprised, angry, and even hurt. Unfortunately, they underestimate the consequences and what happens is no less than cataclysmic.
This tragic couple is composed of polar opposites. Haydee, covered in tattoos, is ashamed of her past participation in a gang and is terrified that people will discover she is a prostitute. On her first day in a new school she meets Maysa, someone kind, beautiful—and wearing a hijab.
The characters' differences extend well beyond physical appearances. Haydee’s family is nice but remote, ghosts in the background, relatives who neither hold her back nor know her enough to intrude when they should. Freedom has left her alone.
On the other hand, Maysa is under strict control. Her mother trots out suitors for a future marriage she doesn't want, and her father criticizes her every move. Maysa’s rigid life is one of tremendous pressure to be the perfect daughter, the perfect student, and to always keep her hijab tight. Surrounded by three seemingly loyal friends in a clique where non-Muslims aren’t allowed, Maysa despairs that she'll never get a chance to get close to Haydee.
This striking dichotomy in the girls' family life is balanced by what they share. Along with Maysa and Haydee's budding romance (which Sharif handles delicately, but believably), each girl must contend with a villain who threatens to destroy their new relationship.
Maysa’s enemy is the super-nasty Aamal, the leader of her Muslim clique. Haydee’s nemesis is her pimp, Rafe. Sharif pulls no punches in describing the horrors of forced prostitution. As with 52 Likes, this is no tame “after-school special” type of story. Conflict is not resolved with the villains recognizing the error of their ways and everyone exchanging hugs at the end. No sir. In the last third, the tale plunges into dark territories. Which I wouldn't dare spoil here. It's just too juicy.
If there is any criticism, for me it would be a bit of reader spoonfeeding. Major plots points are reiterated along the way, dialogue occasionally steps beyond what I would expect of a character in order to justify or explain something, and characters' feelings are stated even though the situations and the character reactions make this unnecessary. Then again, the target audience is YA. Like Haydee and Maysa, with their noses pressed to their cell phones every other minute, these writerly helpmates may be exactly what teens need to hook back into the story.
Overall, A Love That Disturbs is an important book about tolerance. Tolerance for Muslims, tattoos, and people with a dark past. And tolerance for peoples’ choices, like being gay—an especially timely message considering recent events. Highly recommended.
Posted by Bish Denham on 13th Jul 2016
I was given this book in exchange for an honest review.
I've read most of Ms. Sharif's books and know that she tackles some pretty difficult subjects. A LOVE THAT DISTURBS is no exception, in the fact that it deals with lesbian love, prostitution, violence against women, and hate crime, to name just a few. She even brings in the intolerance and strictness that exists within some Muslim families and the repercussions that intolerance can produce.
It was not an easy book for me to read because Ms. Sharif did not pull any punches, she didn't spare me (the reader) from the harshness and ugliness that goes on all around us. And yet, in the midst of that ugliness, a flower struggles to grow. That flower is love
Posted by pksm on 13th Jul 2016
This is a heavy book. I don’t review a lot of books, but I was enticed by the dark subject—Muslim girl falls in love with a prostitute—and even though I knew it would be a tough read, I was still surprised by how tough. I wanted Maysa to give up her fight for her independence and go back to being the good little Muslim girl to save everybody the heartache, but of course I didn’t really want that. My reader emotions and loyalties were pulled and tugged on through the entire story and then what happened to Maysa at the end was a complete surprise. Holy cow.
I’ve read several books by Medeia Sharif and I know she is capable of handling tough subjects with beauty and care. The writing in this book felt a little stiff. I never really fell into either character. I always felt like I was watching through a window and there was a lot of repetition.
I love that Muslim girls have reading material. I love that Maysa so quickly embraced her gayness and even if she didn’t shout if from the rooftops at first, when she came out she was committed, not cowed. I love that Haydee set a goal to turn her back on her lifestyle, though I’m in no way condoning her method – it’s fiction, let’s keep it that way.
And I really want to know what hot chips are.
Recommended to readers who like dark contemporary and who don’t have triggers with violence or sex.
I received the book in exchange for an honest review.
Posted by Beverly's Reviews on 13th Jul 2016
Sometimes people find themselves in situations that they want out of, but circumstances prevent them from changing. What if they reach a point where they can’t go on with their lives the way they are, however? Do they risk losing family and friends by taking a chance at happiness or do they give in to pressure and continue living their unhappy lives?
In A LOVE THAT DISTURBS, Author Medeia Sharif’s latest novel for young adult readers, Haydee Gomez wants to get away from her pimp Rafe and just live a normal life, going to school like other girls and making friends. Maysa Mazaria, taunted for being a Muslim, wants to fall in love and not be married to a man of her mother’s choice. Then the girls make a discovery that has repercussions they never could have imagined.
Medeia Sharif has written a tender story that will touch your heart and perhaps even make you angry. Haydee and Maysa are such realistic characters, I kept thinking, is this really happening to teens in America? Do they face such challenges in their lives today? Are people as hateful and mean, yes mean, as some of the girls are that claim to be Maysa’s friend?
The author touches on controversial subjects in a gentle way that helped me understand other cultures better. A LOVE THAT DISTURBS would make a great addition to high school libraries, public libraries and you own library. I imagine many young people can relate to the challenge the girls have to deal with. Recommended.
Posted by Maria C on 24th Jun 2016
This book made me go through so many different emotions. It had some really sweet parts in the beginning and the end was heartbreaking and bittersweet at the same time. It made me cry for so many pages.