The Loophole, a novel by Naz Kutub published in June, 2022, is a surprisingly original retelling of the Aladdin story with compelling characters who deal with issues like islamophobia and homophobia. Its protagonist, Sayyed, is an Indian Muslim teenager whose boyfriend left Los Angeles (and the North American continent) three months ago, to teach English in far-off countries.
Sayyed works at a coffee shop with his friend, Dzakir, until the rich, powerful, and ever-drunk Reggie offers to grant him three wishes in exchange for his lunch. Once his father realizes that Sayyed is gay and has had a boyfriend behind his back for nearly two years, he kicks him out, and Sy uses his second of three wishes (as his first one was the standard $1 million) to find his ex-boyfriend, Farouk, and win him back with Reggie’s help. Over the course of the book, he and Reggie travel the world, break a few laws, and learn more about each other and themselves.
Sayyed is a very interesting character, stuck between his love for his traditional family and his ex. He cares so much about his sister and his Umi, but his Baba makes it very hard for him to live his life comfortably. He wants to spend the rest of his days with Farouk, but his own fears hold him back. With every cab ride, flight, or adrenaline-fueled sprint, he has to choose between his past and his future, his love or his family, and whether or not he should give up hope entirely.
Unfortunately, Sy is demonized by many, not just his father. As he wanders the world in search of Farouk, he realizes just how hard life is for people who are Muslim, South Asian, or Middle Eastern—not just in LA, but everywhere. He witnesses riots condemning people like him, faces government officials who see everyone who looks like him as a threat, and experiences internal doubts about what it means to be gay and Muslim.
The plot is captivating, the characters are worth cheering for, and the ending blows readers away. If you enjoy fantasy novels with a twist, The Loophole should be on your reading list.
The Loophole by Naz Kutub. Bloomsbury YA, 2022. Buy the book here and help support Stone Soup in the process!