Do you ever see a book and immediately want to read it even though you know nothing about it? That was exactly me when I saw RANA JOON AND THE ONE & ONLY NOW by Shideh Etaat. Luckily, my instincts are often correct and the synopsis confirmed my need to read it.
Rana Joon is not the perfect Iranian girl - she smokes weed and loves Tupac. Oh, and she also likes girls. The only person who knows though is her best friend Louie, but he died almost a year ago. While still trying to process her grief, Rana decides to enter the rap battle that he had always dreamed of competing in, even as she stands paralyzed at the thought of public speaking. With both high school graduation and the battle getting nearer, Rana has to figure out how to speak her truth, for Louie but, most importantly, for herself.
This was a beautiful coming-of-age story that tackled a handful of hard topics with finesse. One of the biggest themes in this story is grief and the grieving process. Etaat brings us along Rana’s journey as she tries to figure out what is the “right” way to grieve Louie’s death. Not only does it delve into the different ways in which people grieve the ones they have lost but is also a reminder that grieving and healing are not linear and that there is no timeline on grief.
With the addition of Louie’s raps and Rana’s poems to the text, the story felt very lyrical, flowing in a way that almost felt like it could be set to a musical beat. This felt like such a beautiful way to honor one of the things that really tied Rana and Louie together, thereby honoring the love and friendship that flowed between the two of them.
If you have ever lost someone and subsequently felt lost yourself afterward, it is easy to relate to Rana as she continues to figure out how to grieve Louie. Intricately weaved into this grieving process is Rana (and others) also figuring out how to love. Etaat writes these teens in such a believable way that reminds us of just how big everything feels at that age. Every problem that they face feels like the end of the world to them and it is almost a relief to be able to read about these messy characters and their messy lives through the lens of adulthood and with the understanding that things that once felt huge are actually tiny in the grand scheme of things.
RANA JOON AND THE ONE & ONLY NOW by Shideh Etaat is available now and you can pick up a copy for yourself here.
Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book for free and have voluntarily written this review. If you purchase a copy using my Bookshop affiliate link above, not only will I receive a small commission (which will fuel my coffee and tea addiction and help to keep me up all night reading more books to recommend to you), but you will also be supporting indie bookstores like my local fave Linden Tree Books without whom this review would not be possible! If you prefer Amazon, visit my Amazon storefront and click on the list titled "2023 Book Recommendations."