In Sara Saedi’s newest book, I Miss You, I Hate This, she tackles the pandemic life through her characters Parisa Naficy and Gabriela Gonzales. When the two met during freshman year of high school, they were fast friends despite their differences in cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. Now, senior year is in progress and the girls can’t wait to experience all the milestones. Their plans are shattered, though, once a global pandemic forces everyone into lockdown. As the world tries to navigate this time, Gabriela and Parisa must also navigate a friendship that hits its own struggles.
Something Saedi does especially well is highlighting the intersectionality of both girls and using that to draw the contrast between them. To start, Parisa is Iranian American whose parents are wealthy and can give Parisa a privileged life. On the surface, things seem to be rather easy for the Naficys. However, through Parisa, Saedi emphasizes how Parisa’s parents had to work especially hard to escape their traumatic lives in Iran. She uses their life – past and present – to show how Parisa is affected by generational trauma, especially when it comes to school. Moreover, Parisa’s anxiety is viewed as a bit taboo in her household, though she’s never quite judged for it; it’s one of those “we don’t talk about this” topics informed by Parisa’s cultural background.
In a similar fashion, Saedi brings a religious context as to why Gabriela’s Mexican American mothers, Elena and Julia, struggle to give Gabriela as nice a life. She touches on how Elena and Julia’s rejections from their families forced them to find complete independence while they were still teens. Their past also informs certain decisions they make regarding Gabriela. Gabriela’s POV really hit on the financial toll the pandemic has as her family struggles to maintain ends meet for necessities like rent.
The girls’ friendship in general is an interesting dynamic. Initially, they don’t really seem like two people who would be friends. But they are, and it works. Saedi brings a gentleness and vulnerability to their friendship that makes the good times great and the bad times worse. It’s clear that the pair have a complex relationship with one another from a privilege standpoint but maintain their affection. The dual POVs also allow readers to view the girls from each other’s perspective, giving greater insight into their friendship.
For me, the book’s biggest weakness is that, at times, it felt shallow. Not necessarily in that it lacked depth, but that Saedi didn’t quite dig deep enough. One instance of this (without spoilers) is when Gabriela and Parisa learn some massive news that caused shock but wasn’t explored much beyond the initial reveal. Paired with the backdrop of a pandemic, this event would’ve been a great way for Saedi to really dive into the psyches of her protagonists in a way that would bring new life into the story. Instead, I found that it was harder to feel for the girls because the event felt too glossed over despite attempts to illustrate its lasting effect.
Overall, I Miss You, I Hate This is a heartfelt novel that hits the right beats of living through the early days of the pandemic. Saedi’s decision to include e-mails and text messages throughout help reiterate how being able to communicate only through technology both helps and hurts within the book’s context. She touches on a wide range of topics through her characters, from the defining aspects that set Gabriela and Parisa apart, to teenage problems, and more. It’s a well-paced story with both humor and emotion that hits a bit harder and filled with moments any reader can relate to.
I Miss You, I Hate This is available now online and in stores.