Book Review – How It All Blew Up

Yesterday was publication day for the wonderful, witty How It All Blew Up. This book has the utter highs and horrifying lows that can only be expected when you read the synopsis:

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda goes to Italy in Arvin Ahmadi’s newest incisive look at identity and what it means to find yourself by running away.

Eighteen-year-old Amir Azadi always knew coming out to his Muslim family would be messy–he just didn’t think it would end in an airport interrogation room. But when faced with a failed relationship, bullies, and blackmail, running away to Rome is his only option. Right?
Soon, late nights with new friends and dates in the Sistine Chapel start to feel like second nature… until his old life comes knocking on his door. Now, Amir has to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth to a U.S. Customs officer, or risk losing his hard-won freedom.
At turns uplifting and devastating, How It All Blew Up is Arvin Ahmadi’s most powerful novel yet, a celebration of how life’s most painful moments can live alongside the riotous, life-changing joys of discovering who you are.

I’m not Muslim, but I am the eldest living girl from a conservative family. And I’m gay. So although I couldn’t relate to Amir on a religious level, when it came to the panic of being blackmailed about staying silent regarding his sexual orientation, I could understand. Maybe it’s a good think Air B&B didn’t exist when I was a teenager, or I might have run away to Rome myself.

Amir panics about what it would mean to them on multiple levels if they learned he was gay, and I remember that panic. The book was at times so painfully relateable I had to put it down. I used to see the disappointment on my dad’s face, hear the homophobic jokes from my sibling, the reminder they wanted grandchildren from my mother.

The book unfolds in a truly unique set up, a mixture of recollections and interviews, both of Amir and his family. We gather bits and pieces of the puzzle as it unfolds, slowly putting together the picture of how it all blew up (phrasing, and potential pun, very much intended). It’s written in such a way that you have to finish the book to understand completely, almost written backwards, and it works so perfectly with the story. The author has created a gay masterpiece here.

There are some books that come into the world and improve the world around them, and this is one of them. Appealing to anyone who feels like they don’t quite fit in, it’s a perfect read to reassure yourself that you are fine just the way you are.

Thank you so much to Hot Key Books for my copy of this book – I truly enjoyed every page.


  1. I’ve got this coming up next to read so I’m going to save this review and read and comment when I’ve read the book. Missed the publication date but not by tooooo much.


  2. And I loved it. I don’t intersect with any of Amir’s demographics at all – although I do read a lot of books about diverse topics so I can educate myself about people’s lives and experiences outside my white cis hetero life – and I really enjoyed this. Reviewed it today.


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