Book Review: Much Ado About Nada by Uzma Jalaluddin
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Book Review: Much Ado About Nada By Uzma Jalaluddin

The older I grow, the more appreciation I have for sweet and swooning romance novels, and Much Ado About Nada by Uzma Jalaluddin has everything that I could possibly love–inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion, this is a Muslim love story about a second-chance romance with just the right amount of angst, sizzle, and sweetness.

That being said, Much Ado About Nada does come with certain shortcomings, and as much as I loved the story, there are some important criticisms that I could not overlook by the time I finished the book. Dive in for a more detailed review below.

Book Review: Much Ado About Nada

~ Synopsis: Much Ado About Nada by Uzma Jalaluddin ~

Book Review: Much Ado About Nada By Uzma Jalaluddin

Nada Syed is stuck. On the cusp of thirty, she’s still living at home with her brothers and parents in the Golden Crescent neighbourhood of Toronto, resolutely ignoring her mother’s unsubtle pleas to get married already. While Nada has a good job as an engineer, it’s a far cry from realizing her start-up dreams for her tech baby, Ask Apa, the app that launched with a whimper instead of a bang because of a double-crossing business partner. Nothing in her life has turned out the way it was supposed to, and Nada feels like a failure. Something needs to change, but the past is holding on too tightly to let her move forward.

Nada’s best friend Haleema is determined to pry her from her shell…and what better place than at the giant annual Muslim conference held downtown, where Nada can finally meet Haleema’s fiancé, Zayn. And did Haleema mention Zayn’s brother Baz will be there?

What Haleema doesn’t know is that Nada and Baz have a past–some of it good, some of it bad and all of it secret. At the conference, that past all comes hurtling at Nada, bringing new complications and a moment of reckoning. Can Nada truly say goodbye to once was or should she hold tight to her dreams and find their new beginnings?


Rating: 3 out of 5.
Genre: Adult Romance, Contemporary
Trigger Warnings: Bullying, Divorce, Islamophobia (mentioned)

~ Book Review: Much Ado About Nada By Uzma Jalaluddin ~

Although I am a huge Jane Austen fan, Persuasion is my least favorite of Austen romances, specifically because I was not the biggest fan of the relationship dynamics between Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth. 

Those who have read Persuasion or have watched the film adaptations know the gist of the story: Anne Elliot is a woman of a good social standing who falls in love with Captain Wentworth–a man of good character but an uncertain future and no secure financial stability. Persuaded by a well-meaning family friend, Anne ends up refusing his proposal, breaking both of their hearts and living in regret for years until their paths cross again. 

The premise of Much Ado About Nada by Uzma Jalaluddin follows the same storyline–but with a modern and desi spin on it. The story begins with Nada, a Muslim girl living in Toronto with her family whose life seems to be stuck with no end in sight: almost thirty, she is under constant pressure from her family and friends to get married (a story as old as time for us brown girls). 

And while she has been successfully and resolutely ignoring her mother’s pleas to settle down with a nice Muslim man, she hasn’t been successful in moving on from two different kinds of heartbreak: Baz Haq, a man who once meant the world to her and would soon become the future brother-in-law of her best friend, and the embarrassing failure of Ask Apa, Nada’s beloved app that she had tried to launch to create meaningful impact in her community. 

In other words, this retelling of Persuasion by Jane Austen is one that definitely resonated with me–a twenty-something South Asian Muslim girl who dreams of making her own mark in the world but also of finding love and someone to share all my wins and losses with. 

Let’s start with the things that I absolutely loved about this book: Nada herself. 

Now here is a woman who knows her own mind and heart, but is struggling to overcome past trauma and move forward with her life. I loved Nada’s entrepreneurial spirit, and I loved the way she silently but thoughtfully took insights about relationships from the people closest to her–her mother, her friend, and her brothers. 

Through Nada’s interactions with her family, Uzma Jalaluddin carefully paints a very vivid and realistic image of what romance and marriage looks like in a South Asian Muslim family: her mother Narjis, who was the first to get a university degree in her family, chose her children over a career or a business of her own, and found happiness in her arranged marriage. 

In stark contrast to the tenderness and understanding shared between Nada’s parents, Waqas, Nada’s older brother, was left heartbroken and in tatters after his arranged marriage ended in a divorce and the loss of custody of his twin daughters. 

And there’s Nada’s youngest brother Jamal, who shows Nada (and the readers) the reality of dating in a conservative Muslim community–the secret relationships, the coverups, the tensions and the stress that young couples face in trying to stay within the boundaries set for them both by their faith and their culture.

It was incredibly relatable and at the same time, a little disheartening to read. While I will never advocate other Muslims to do things that deviate from what Islam has set as ground rules, I myself have never able to confine myself to such a strict lifestyle. It’s one of the reasons why I struggle so much with organized religion–though my faith is strong, I am too much of a rebel and want to live my life on my own terms. 

Which is why so many of Nada’s fears about marriage and love and her future struck a cord with me. Like Anne, Nada knows that her heart belongs to Baz. Like Anne, Nada knows that in the real world, love is not enough. During the time they are together, young and lovedrunk, Nada finds herself constantly worrying about her future with Baz, who seems unconcerned and even uninterested in trying to build a solid foundation for themselves. 

And this is where my biggest criticism of Much Ado About Nada comes in. Fast forward eight years, Nada has chosen a practical and respectable profession to care for herself and make herself independent, though her career does not bring her true joy–she is, after all, an ambitious and aspiring entrepreneur by nature. Baz too has matured and pulled himself together–he worked on an MBA degree (a major improvement after his prior life as a college dropout) and helped steer his family business to huge success. 

But while Nada finds the courage to start her own business and makes peace with the love that she had lost, Baz never sees his own faults that led to the end of their relationship years prior. Young Nada’s concerns about her future were valid and realistic–she was seeking assurance from her partner that he would work to help build their future–but all Baz had to give was flimsy promises of “we’ll figure it out together” instead of sitting down with her and actually making plans. 

Now we can forgive Baz for not understanding what Nada was asking from him in the past, but even by the time the book ends, it seems that Baza still has not accepted or even acknowledged that his lack of support and readiness to actively participate in their future was the reason for Nada’s fear and lack of faith in their relationship. The burden of blame once again falls on the woman, and this really put me off of the book.

There are other things about Much Ado About Nada that I did not quite enjoy: for starters, Baz and Nada’s entire relationship is more tell than show. I partly blame this on the overuse of flashbacks and the third-person narrative; while there’s no argument against the chemistry Nada and Baz share, I had a hard time understanding why and how exactly they fell in love so deeply. It’s a romance novel after all, so show me how the main characters fall in love instead of narrating it to me.

Aside from these criticisms, Much Ado About Nada was a fun book to read. It may not be at the top of my recommended books for fellow romance lovers or Austen fans, but it’s definitely worth a try. 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own (my opinions are not for sale anyway). Thank you so much to Rin Chupeco, SourceBooks Fire and NetGalley for giving me a free copy of this book. <3

~ More Books by Uzma Jalaluddin ~

If you are interested in reading more romance books that feature immigrant Muslims as the main characters, here’s another book by Uzma Jalaluddin that I absolutely loved: Hana Khan Carries On.

Book Review: Much Ado About Nada By Uzma Jalaluddin



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