In addition to navigating school, parents, friends, and relationships, teens have the extra-special added suck of trying to figure out themselves. It’s a rite of passage we all go through—that awkward shifting of self and trying on personalities.
In I’ll Always Miss You, Isa Zaman feels uncomfortable in his skin and his culture (or lack thereof). Kids at school give Isa crap for being Arab-American, asking him ridiculous questions ranging from Do you speak Muslim? To Are you and your Dad terrorists? But as obnoxious as other people can be, the question that niggles Isa the most is the one he asks himself:
Am I Arab enough?
With Moroccan grandparents who wanted Isa’s folks to assimilate into American culture, there’s little that still ties the Zaman family to Arab tradition. They don’t even speak the Arabic language. Part of Isa is desperate to learn more about what they’ve all left behind—but how?
I don’t want to give away the ultimate connection he makes, but it is a simple and powerful one, and for Isa, it’s exactly what he needs to feel more comfortable in his own skin.
Pages: 256 pages
Cover Artist: Bree Archer
Categories: Young Adult | Bisexual | Coming of Age |
Isa Zaman might forgive his parents for taking in a friend’s son if only he wasn’t the most boring teenager in the universe. Macklin “Mackie” Cormack’s only interests are reading and the outdoors. Yeah, right. Isa’s convinced Mackie is either a pyro or a klepto. Plus, as a white kid, Mackie looks ridiculous in the Zamans’ Arab American household. Forced to share a bedroom, the boys keep butting heads until an absurd fight finally breaks the tension between them.
Isa’s just starting to figure life out: this new houseguest, his cultural identity, school, and even girls, when the entire family is uprooted from their home for reasons Isa can’t understand. They move from their tiny city apartment to a giant, old house in a small town, hours away from everything he’s ever known. Oh, and the new house? It’s probably haunted, or so says the blank-faced ten-year-old next door. As if things weren’t weird enough, Isa’s friendship with Mackie suddenly takes a strange turn down a path Isa’s not sure he’s ready to follow. It turns out Mackie Cormack isn’t nearly as boring as Isa once imagined.
He took a deep breath. “That’s sort of the thing. I don’t like anything about her.”
“She asked me out.” Mackie shrugged. “But I don’t really like her all that much either.”
I couldn’t wrap my head around it. We’d been ignoring each other for all that time over a girl he didn’t even like? Bullshit. Complete and total bullshit.
“Are you for real?”
“So why are you going out with her, then?” And then I remembered what he’d said in my room that day, that he was dating her just because…. Because why? If we were ever going to be friends again, then I needed to know. “Why are you going out with her?”
“I really don’t want to talk about that, Isa.”
“C’mon, Mackie. It’s been driving me nuts. Why would you date someone you didn’t even like? Or do you like kissing her?”
“Not… really,” he said. “That’s kind of the thing. I thought I would. But… I don’t.”
“Okay, then stop.” I shrugged. “We’re supposed to start working at Rashid’s, and we could hang out again, and there’s only like a week left of school. We could be friends.”
“I don’t… think that’s… a good idea.”
“You don’t want to be my friend?” I demanded. “What? ’Cause of Katy? ’Cause I was a jerk? That’s stupid, Mackie! It was your fault too! I don’t understand you at all.”
He was quiet for a really long time.
“I’m screwed no matter what I do,” he finally said on a low sigh.
“You think?” I asked, not knowing what he meant. I rolled Dad’s nine iron with my palm.
“Jesus H, Isa. You’re going to make me do this, aren’t you?”
“Yup,” I told him dryly. “Yup, I’m going to make you do this, whatever the hell ‘this’ is.”
He turned his face and stared at me. He stared at me so hard and for so long, I started to get uncomfortable. And then he leaned in, and I thought he was going to whisper it. Whatever the big secret was, whatever he’d been hiding from me, his reasons for dating a girl he didn’t even like, his reasons for not wanting to be my friend, all of it. Instead, he kissed me.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Raine O’Tierney loves writing about first loves and friendship. She believes the best thing we can do in this life is be kind to one another, and hopes her stories always reflect that. Raine loves encouraging people to write and has been known to repeat the phrase “I believe everyone has a story to tell” endlessly, until she breaks down even the most stubborn non-writer!
Raine lives outside of Kansas City, Missouri, with her husband, fellow M/M author Siôn O’Tierney. When she’s not writing, she’s either playing video games or fighting the good fight for intellectual freedom at her library day job.
Contact her if you’re interested in talking about point-and-click adventure games or about which dachshunds are the best kinds of dachshunds!