Author Uzma Jalaluddin returns with another classic love story retelling set in Toronto’s Muslim community. While her last romance took inspiration from ’90s rom-com classic You’ve Got Mail, Much Ado About Nada offers a contemporary twist on Jane Austen’s Persuasion.
Nada Syed feels blocked, both professionally and personally. She had high hopes for her app Ask Apa, which would have offered users culturally sensitive advice. But after being betrayed by a business partner, she finds herself working an engineering job that stifles her creativity and desire to do good. With her 30th birthday on the horizon, she’s questioning all the decisions that have led to her being single, living with her parents and failing to become the successful tech CEO she’s always dreamed of being.
Haleema, Nada’s best friend, thinks attending Deen&Dunya, a Muslim conference full of fandom and fun, will help Nada get out of her rut. Haleema’s fiancé, Zayn, and his brother, Baz, are joining them, but unbeknownst to Haleema, Nada and Baz have a long and tumultuous history. Despite being thrown together for the duration of the conference, both Nada and Baz want to keep their complicated feelings for each other a secret.
Jalaluddin has a real talent for crafting protagonists, and Nada is just as complex and enjoyable as the heroines of Ayesha at Last and Hana Khan Carries On. Nada faces all the unfair societal and familial pressures that can weigh on women as they enter their 30s, and her feeling of a giant clock ticking away her remaining time to accomplish goals will hit home for a lot of readers. Jalaluddin adds depth and specificity to this experience by showing how these pressures manifest in Nada’s Muslim community and family.
Nada and Baz’s cheeky romance is the perfect balance to Much Ado About Nada’s social commentary. Their interactions sizzle with sexual tension as they dance around each other, and their adorable mutual attraction is charmingly obvious to everyone but them. Baz and Nada’s eventual union is a sure thing from the moment they reunite, but it’s still a delight to see them get there in their own time.
One of the best things about Jalaluddin’s work is the sheer amount of joy she brings to her characters, her writing and her happily ever afters. She clearly delights in reinventing known classics, using beloved heroines as a foundation to create modern women who don’t want or need to sacrifice their ambitions for other parts of their lives. With Much Ado About Nada, Jalaluddin has written yet another winner—and this time it’s one with a particularly heartwarming, tender and feminist resolution.