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The Syrian Virgin #1

Anissa of Syria

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["Clean read" edition of The Syrian Virgin - full details below]

Anissa is traumatized by the most brutal conflict of the 21st Century: the Syrian Civil War. In 2012, Islamists in Homs terrorize a Syrian-Christian community and destroy everything that a young woman holds dear. Narrowly escaping death, Anissa restarts her devastated life as a college student in New York City. She is bewildered and lost, but hopeful for a better life in a new land.

Anissa is soon drawn to two powerful individuals: Michael Kassab, the Syrian-American leader working to found the first Mideast Christian state, and Julien Morales, her Columbia University professor who runs a $20 billion hedge fund.

Complicating matters, Michael is still attached to his ex-girlfriend and Julien is the most sought after bachelor in Manhattan (and has hidden demons that even his therapist can't extract). Anissa's heart and her communal ties pull her in different directions, as she seeks hope and renewal in a dark world.

Anissa of Syria might be compared to The Kite Runner, Exodus, and The Diary of Anne Frank.

NOTE: This is a "clean read" edition of The Syrian Virgin (i.e., this version has no profanity and just a few, brief scenes of minimally described intimacy without reference to any explicit details or sexual anatomy). Due to war themes, this book is not recommended for readers under 16.

281 pages, Kindle Edition

First published June 4, 2015

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About the author

Zack Love

8 books809 followers
Pardon the minimal content here. You're more likely to find new stuff on my author site: http://zacklove.com

And here's my bio:

Zack Love graduated from Harvard College, where he studied mostly literature, psychology, philosophy, and film. After college, he moved to New York City and took a corporate consulting job that had absolutely nothing to do with his studies. The attacks of September 11, 2001 inspired him to write a novelette titled “The Doorman" (http://tinyurl.com/TheDoormanAmazon), and heightened his interest in the Middle East. A decade later, that interest extended to the Syrian Civil war, which provided the backdrop for his latest work. In late 2013, Zack began releasing his unpublished works of fiction and became a full-time author. He has published comedy, psychological and philosophical fiction, and romance. Zack enjoys confining himself to one genre about as much as he likes trying to sum up his existence in one paragraph.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 168 reviews
Profile Image for N.M. Silber.
Author 18 books1,428 followers
November 8, 2014
Well-written, poignant, timely and relevant, this book held my interest from the beginning until the end.

As the plot unfolds, the reader follows a young Syrian woman on a journey, both literal and figurative, as she leaves the familiar behind and faces the world, essentially alone. I felt invested in the story early on, experiencing feelings of tension and frustration along with the female protagonist, and sympathizing with her as she tried to cope with, and overcome the trauma in her past.

There are two male protagonists, and both men are powerful, but flawed, in different ways. That fact doesn't detract, however, from how interesting they are. In fact, at one point, I caught myself feeling guilty for having misjudged one of them.

The book was clearly well-researched, and accurately portrayed the political climate, and the history of the region. The plot was engaging, and I looked forward to seeing how it unfolded, developing my own theories along the way. Which is not to say it was at all predictable. In fact, it was quite original, and the end left me eager to read more about these characters.

All in all, the level of the writing was well above average, and I honestly enjoyed it more than any novel I had read in quite a while. Highly recommended.

625 reviews15 followers
February 10, 2015
Rated R for sensuality, sexuality, strong language, strong violence, and mature thematic material.

I was asked to read and review this book even though—actually, because—I don’t seem to be the intended audience (which seems to be romance fans). Nevertheless, I will give this my best shot.

My first question was why, precisely, this book seems to have appeal to romance fans. If, as has been suggested to me, the book is about the persecution of Syrian Christians, why would the main audience like books such as Fifty Shades of Grey and books with covers featuring lingerie-clad women? To answer this, I will analyze the superficial aspects of the book that may create strong first impressions in the readers.

To start, upon beginning this book, my eye was caught by a few things: the cover, the title, the author’s name, the Table of Contents, the Acknowledgment, and the Dedication. Who reads (and analyzes) these things? *Raising hand* Yes, that’s me. Prepare yourself.

I. (a) The Cover

I love the cover—sort of. Well, it is well designed. It is a close-up shot of a young woman’s face with a reflection of fire in her eye—which, incidentally, communicates her overall inability to act. She is clearly watching passively; there is no suggest of concern, fear, horror, shock, or anger in her face. She is like a blank canvas. We also see the corner of her headwrap and, behind the title, there is a shot of a brightly lit American bridge at night. Which bridge? Beats me. The combination of these images points out the obvious culture clash and presents the question of the heroine’s unexplained naïveté, given that fire (which we presume is literal fire but could just as easily be the figurative fire of passion). The nighttime setting of the bridge also carries with it some sensual undertones.

The main issues are (a) the color scheme, (b) the title, and (c) the author’s name. First, the color scheme is red, black, and white, which, in my personal experience, tends to suggest dark and potentially steamy romances or affairs or such. Examples include Twilight, The Heist Society, Sunshine, The Sea of Tranquility, Looking for Alaska, The White Cat, Beastly and Thirteen Reasons Why. Alternatively, the color scheme may suggest lots of violence—often along with the romance, as in the books I mentioned above.

Second, the title is The Syrian Virgin. What is the operative word here? You guessed it: Virgin. Syrian only adds additional illicitness to the title. You know—“Ooh, Middle Eastern affairs? Hidden beauty and forbidden love? Getting past the veil to that sultry-ness? Edgy!!!”

Third, the author’s name is Zack Love, and his last name is put in obvious proximity to the word Virgin. I have nothing against his name, but the cover designer really could have put extra effort into separating those two words were this not a steamy romance novel.

So there you have it. In my opinion, the color scheme, the prominent words in the title, and the placement of the author’s admittedly evocative last name contribute, along with the cover images, to the romantic appeal of the book. There really is no other obvious potential audience for this book based on the cover.

I. (b) The Table of Contents, the Acknowledgment, and the Dedication

First of all, the chapter titles alternate between Anissa and Julien. This implies that this is a romance story that starts at chapter 13 (how portentous). There is no foreshadowing whatsoever about the actual contents of the book other than that admittedly superficial information.

Second, the first words of the acknowledgment are “Publishing this book just two months after the story first came to me . . . .” Okay. So all I know about the book by the time I have looked at the cover, the table of contents, and the acknowledgement are that there is a heavy focus on romance and this was a hastily written book. So far, I have serious doubts about the lasting value of the story.

The Dedication, though, is the first real hint about the importance of the book’s content: To the people of Syria. The world let you down. This is the first thing that hooked me, an admitted reader of YA and children’s [clean] fantasy and realistic fiction. 10/10 points for a winning dedication.

II. Quick Summary

Anissa is a young Christian woman who fled from Syria at the age of fourteen when her parents and brother were murdered by jihadists. As a seventeen-year-old college student narrating to her diary the events of her life, both past and present, Anissa remains deeply haunted by the events of her childhood. As she struggles to literally make the grade in her courses, she searches for a way to work for her fellow Syrian Christians who are still being viciously persecuted. At the same time, she is searching for love and must decide between two very good prospects.

III. And Now…The Content!

The hook is okay. Italicized flashback—perhaps a tad clichéd, but good. Sentimentality abounds, though.

I do have some questions. First of all, after having suffered through so much, would Anissa really go Facebook/Twitter stalking for this guy she has a crush on? She retweets, she shares, she posts, and she is basically the ultimate social media activist. Plus, where is she getting all of her money? She is seeing a therapist regularly and taking undoubtedly expensive martial arts classes for years, but she doesn’t have a job. She seems to have effortlessly assimilated into the American college culture, despite the frequent mentions of her difficulties with the hyper-sexualization of our culture. There are just a lot of character inconsistencies.

In addition, she is a beautiful genius haunted by her past, going to a prestigious school, while crushing on a dark, smolderingly handsome polyglot genius with a similar backstory who is also getting his Ph.D. while managing an activist group, working “as a freelance journalist,” owning a PR company, training in martial arts, and playing music. She is also being lusted after for her beauty and unavailability and virginity and all that by her 41-year-old genius and “ultimate bachelor” college professor who is also a billionaire genius with a troubled past and an addiction to 20-something girls (maybe younger). I’m sensing a pattern here. There is only so much of this that I can realistically take, and I am not convinced that this is in any way based in reality. If it is, I mourn for our culture’s understanding of reality. The entire book, in fact, feels like a Harlequin novel that is playing on the current hot topics. Of course, I will readily admit that I have never read a Harlequin novel—but if this is anything like them, I plan on keeping it that way. I agree that the persecution of the Syrian Christians is abominable and needs to be addressed and abolished now—preferably years ago!—but this book is much shallower than it pretends to be.

I also have two more questions. If Anissa grew up in a devout Christian home in Syria, where to be Christian is to have to be committed to the point of death, how/why did she (a) not know anything about the evolutionary model before entering the States, especially in a relatively well-off family that gave her lots of schooling (remember that her sister was going to a music college, the family had a maid, and they also had enough savings to smuggle Anissa into the U.S. illegally via Canada and provide a good amount of funds to start her off), and (b) why did she automatically and unquestioningly accept it as soon as she entered the U.S. school system, even though it directly contrasts with a literal translation of the Biblical Creation?

Also, I’m having a hard time believing that her mother would have sent Anissa off with the explicit instructions to retain her virginity for the right guy without emphasizing the importance of that same person’s religion. It’s just that there are enough passages in the Bible emphasizing the importance of unity of faith within a marriage that I am not thoroughly convinced that Anissa’s mother—or even Anissa—doesn’t think of that aspect at all. Besides, in Christian doctrine, marriage is a human-sized picture of our relationship with God, whereas there is nothing about that in The Sÿrian Virgin. Personally, I think that in that situation a Christian American would be better than a Syrian atheist or an American gnostic, but maybe I am wrong. Just some thoughts.

Ack. This has been a really disorganized section. Let’s just move on, shall we? I’m not going to finish the book anyway.

IV. Overview of Book’s Overall Value

Well, I gave this book my best shot. I did. I got 68% of the way through it—and it is my first Kindle book. I just couldn’t take it anymore. About the time that Anissa was getting all sexual and Julien was seriously considering accosting her, I just couldn’t take finishing the book. It is an R-rated book in almost every way. Plus, Zack Love has an amateurish writing style with a lot of Tell-Don’t-Show with things that really matter and a lot of Show-Don’t-Tell for all of the R-rated sexual sections. I…I just can’t. Really. I can’t finish this. The book’s contents fulfill all of promises of the cover, the table of contents, and the acknowledgment. It’s relatively well-researched, but the characters are flat and unrealistic with little genuine character development and impact on me as a reader, and I was never hooked into the plot.

In addition, Zack Love seems to be genuinely struggling with the Syrian conflict, which is basically taking a backseat to the love triangle. To be fair, he tries so hard to raise awareness of the issues that the media is deliberately ignoring, but in an ironic twist, the Syrian holocaust keeps taking second place to the truly icky romances going on. The Syrian virgin seems to be heading toward being torn between her 41-year-old billionaire adulterous psychology professor and the equally intelligent and egotistical boyfriend, who has also had multiple affairs. Neither one of them is Christian, whereas I would suspect that a girl of Anissa’s background would be specifically looking for someone who shares her religious beliefs. Actually, I can’t believe that her faithful and loving mother would not have specified the importance of looking for and marrying a Christian. For a book about a Syrian Christian and her purity, there is a marked lack of actual Christian values being held.

I guess that I did not find myself really enlightened by reading this book, and I was more disgusted than anything by the increasingly explicit sexuality. I quit when that started getting pretty strong, but even though I am truly concerned about the events in the Middle East and think that more needs to be done to work for our brothers and sisters in Christ, this book does not meet these needs but rather seems like it compounds them by placing a high emphasis on the love triangle and Anissa’s need to lose her virginity or some such balderdash.
November 16, 2014
I loved this book! From the first chapter to the last, “The Syrian Virgin” pulled me in and wouldn’t let me go until I came out the other side. You can tell that Zack Love really put his heart and soul into writing “The Syrian Virgin”. All the time, effort, (and I’m sure, all the blood, sweat and tears) he put into researching and writing EVERY aspect of this book is TRULY evident!

In “The Syrian Virgin”, Zack’s writing is so realistic … it makes you feel like you’re living the story along with Anissa, the young Syrian woman who is the central character in the novel. You feel her pain and her struggle. I felt heartbroken for her and I literally cried for her as I read it.

Zack painted a detailed picture of what’s really going on in Syria and the Middle East. For Anissa and her family, life was very difficult in war-torn Syria. He highlighted the difficulties of being a part of the Christian minority amongst warring groups. It’s a scary picture and more people should be aware of it.

When Anissa arrives in New York, she becomes involved with two very different men. Michael is totally immersed in his activism and doesn’t seem to want to commit to a relationship. On the other hand, her relationship with Julien is very complicated as he is fighting demons of his own.

In my opinion, this is Zack Love’s most impressive novel to date. I really enjoyed the way he wove his characters and their struggles into current events. You could really feel Zack’s passion for this subject and his desire to share it with his readers. I cannot wait for the sequel!
Profile Image for William Bentrim.
Author 64 books62 followers
February 16, 2015
The Syrian Virgin by Zack Love

I just revised my review on this book as I realized I dinged it one star due to my general dislike of the romantic genre. I have recommended this book to more people than any other book I have read recently. I recommended it, in spite of the romance, because of the crucial spotlight it shines on dreadful genocide being carried out in the Mid East. This book has an important message that all the minorities being butchered in the Mid East by fundamental terrorists need to have a voice.

Zack Love approaches literature as I approach a bakery. He seems to want to have one of everything. He has published eBook, a short story, a paperback, a novellette, a screenplay, a collection and a comedy. Luckily he writes rather than frequents bakeries because he would be enormous. I showcased his book The Syrian Virgin and suggest you check it out. Now that I have read this book, I am still amazed at Zack Love. This book is a philosophic treatise and a romantic novel.

Anissa is the Syrian virgin. She is a young woman pushed out of her home by the sectarian violence in Syria. The philosophic or political aspect of the book is based on the moral or righteousness of the actions of ISIS. Those of us in the West tend to view the violence as totally repugnant and frankly I can't see how you could see the religious bigotry in any other way. Assad's rule in Syria can be compared to Saddam Hussein's in Iraq and Marshall Tito's in Yugoslavia. A strong dictator keeping a lid on sectarian violence is not a new story. As I write this there is a news account of a mass execution of Coptic Christians by ISIS bigots. This moves Zack Love's novel from entertainment to political commentary.

The other side of Love's book is the romantic novel aspect. Anissa is enrolled in college and is torn between a charismatic leader trying to elicit support for displaced Christians and a self-made billionaire. Her virginity and her feelings about said status preoccupy a fair amount of the plot.

This is an unusual book in that it poses some very difficult questions regarding dictatorship, religious bigotry, sectarian violence and personal mores.

I recommend i.

Amazon(.com): http://tinyurl.com/TheSyrianVirgin
Amazon (UK): http://tinyurl.com/TheSyrianVirgin-UK
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2...
Author web site: http://zacklove.com
Profile Image for Amy.
95 reviews8 followers
February 10, 2015
I do NOT write reviews for every book I read. My reasoning is this: EVERY published novel is the result of an individual who had an idea. That idea was then built within the author's imagination and carefully constructed to share with the Untold Numbers (readers like you and me). Sometimes those published works are wonderful and sometimes they are not. It is, of course, a variable thing due to the fact that we all have opinions! Our feelings about any work of art are subjective. My point is this: ALL books are personal. They are the result of someone's creativity and the time that that particular someone spent conveying their creativity. Therefore, I only write my thoughts and feelings about a book when I have a personal love affair with said book.

Thoughts and feelings are about to get effusive! Just do not expect a detailed plot description. I don't play that. Look at the book blurb and the other reviews for that. This book...I am in love. This beautiful novel was my introduction to Mr. Zack Love, Author. Just for your edification, Zack Love is carrying a very heavy load on his shoulders. That would be his brain. It is magnificent! He has written a story that will be floating in my mind for quite some time and sitting on my Keeper Shelf for...keeps. I have read most of the reviews and find that I would concur with the majority of the majority. The level of writing is superb...agreed. Provocative, compelling, unforgettable...so much yes. I do not consider The Syrian Virgin to be a Romance novel. AT ALL. There is a love story within a much bigger story. Personally, I consider that designation to be something "other than" a Romance novel. It's actually difficult to categorize this book.

The story is told through the journal entries...primarily those of Anissa. The first half of the book is reflective. Anissa has been directed by her therapist to use journal writing in an effort to better cope with the tragedy she has faced. That tragedy occurred two years prior. Anissa takes us back to war-torn Syria. We see, through her eyes, the gut-wrenching violence that is visited upon her family and those of the Christian faith, living in that region. On the very heels of what will be locked in my memory as one of the most horrific situations I could ever imagine, Anissa seeks refuge with her uncle in New York. It is there that we find her, presently. She is now attending Columbia University at the ripe old age of 17. Observations about Anissa: She is a very young woman, learning to navigate adulthood. This is almost what could be called a Coming-of-Age story. I found it interesting that, in order to get past her Tragic Truth, Anissa was paradoxically compelled to be dishonest with herself. Additionally, she found herself in a new culture that has a greater prevalence of the Hidden Agenda. That was quite a departure from that of her homeland where she had experienced the overt and aggressive method of subjugating those who disagree with the groups who hold the positions of power. In the end, which is a Dangling End, we are still not sure what truths Anissa has yet to reveal to "My Dearest" (herself) from the moments that occurred on that fateful night, before her departure from Syria. I am waiting, Zack Love!

We are introduced to two more primary-secondary characters, Michael and Julien. Michael is a charismatic and handsome activist. While young, he is still several years older (11) than Anissa. A graduate student at Columbia University, he leads a group of Christians who seek to shed light on the atrocities that are visited upon Christians living in the Middle East and raise funds for aid. Though he is a native born United States citizen, Michael feels that he is destined to spearhead the development of a new Christian State, located within the Middle East. His father is Syrian and his mother, Egyptian. They had emigrated to the United States in the 70s. Anissa is drawn to Michael for obvious reasons. I, too, was initially charmed by him. As the story moved forward and his "relationship" with Anissa developed, the enamor was lost. I felt that Michael was a radical who had lost sight of his immediate reality. He was without scruples when it came to seeing the advantage to using Anissa as a vehicle in his scheme. No charm. No bueno, Michael. I know there must be a quote somewhere out there about the dangers of swallowing the sun, in an effort to grow bright enough to shed light on a dark truth. The power of the sun cannot be contained and would, therefore, burn everyone within range of that individual...including supposed friends and allies.

Julien is MUCH older than Anissa...24 years older! He is her professor in Psychology and Markets. Psychology and Markets? What? Baylor did not offer that one in 1983-1987! Just the description of this field of study has me very intrigued. In addition to being a professor at Columbia University, Julien is a self-made billionaire. Just a little hedge fund he built on the side. You know, money for shoes and wine. My immediate impression of Julien was...that I would hold my opinion in reserve. Maybe that was my age talking, but I was very glad that I had proceeded with caution as pertains to this complicated soul. Bless his heart! Though the years do separate these two characters, Julien and Anissa are actually much closer to being kindred spirits. Certainly, they are both liars...to themselves! As it turns out, they are teaching each other quite a bit. I am greatly intrigued by this man, this Julien Morales. We have SO much to learn in the sequel.

There was one reviewer who actually stated that they were disappointed in the lack of continued mention of the situation in Syria in the book. HELLO! Did we read the same book? There was a veritable feast of information relayed through all three of these characters. How? Well, Anissa's recollections and her conversations with family members who were still in Syria were very enlightening. Michael's conversations with Anissa and his speeches to the Mideast Christian Association were quite informative to the very end. ToTheVeryEnd...I was beyond tired of Michael. Did I mention that I did not like this dude? I know that I am going to be unpopular with that one, but, whatever. I'm on Team Anissa and Michael is not not not! Julien provided the psychological and economical explanations for what might bring about a tyranny and what would be the effects upon a collective society, following the acts of that tyranny. His extrapolations did not directly state a relationship to the Syrian crisis; however, I saw the parallels. I saw them.

Little gems I found within this novel were: Annisa's study of decision theory and "loss aversion". That was quite interesting. I will now be investigating written material that covers the research of Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman. Michael's references to political masterminds. The quotes were wonderful. *I MUST re-watch Exodus...and read it! I would never never never watch the movie simply to view Paul Newman for a 3+ hours!* Julien's theory on why older men date younger women...priceless. Truly, that was bonus material, Zack Love!

I thank you, Zack Love, for sharing your imagination with me...with all of us. The Syrian Virgin is really a Work of Art. You have a gift, sir. Is it March yet? I am so anxious for the continuation of this story!
Profile Image for Olivia-Savannah .
690 reviews461 followers
January 17, 2015
This review can originally be found on Olivia's Catastrophe: http://olivia-savannah.blogspot.nl/20...

*Thank you to the author for the review copy*

This book was pretty good. It was written in diary format with two alternating points of view, but mainly Anissa’s. I really liked the main character, Anissa. She was a brave girl, someone who was hard working and determined to not let the society she ended up in sway her judgment and her own morals. She wasn’t someone who conformed to other people, and you know how much I respect that! So, awesome main character here,

Nonetheless, this book kind of bordered on having a love triangle? It never veered that way completely, but it dabbled in the idea of having one. In the second book (there will be one!) I think the love triangle will be clearer and more important. For now, if you are a love triangle hater than you needn’t worry ;)

Sometimes when I read this I felt like it was a bit of an important dump. Like we were being shot a lot of information all at once just so we could learn more about Syria, and like there wasn’t enough fiction thrown in to disguise it. There was a lot of emotion in this novel too, especially because it is a situation that causes me to empathise. I felt like the author could’ve added even more in there in places.

Michael was a character I didn’t like too much. Mainly because of some opinions he holds to later on, and I didn’t like his reasoning for breaking up with his original girlfriend. At first I liked him and then that gradually chipped away the more we learned. I feel like this was exactly how Anissa felt in some places as well though, which is why this might just be some effective writing.

Julian was also very open with his therapist. You should always be because they need to know everything possible about you. But there is a line there and I am not sure people would’ve shared that in real life.

This was also a very philosophic read which made me think in places, making it more memorable. I wondered, how far should we be prepared to go for a good cause? This is something that is debated in the novel and it made me think about how far I would go. It’s one of the things I loved about it. This was based off of real happenings in a way that made me think about the book and remember it after I had closed the book itself.

There were some sexual mentions in the story, and some randomly explicit moments, but not too many. I think this book was mostly focused on Anissa trying to find out her purpose, and who/what would get her there. It doesn't focus too much on the religion.

The ending was abrupt as if it was simply cut off. I know there will be a sequel, but it would’ve been nice for it to have been tied up a bit nicer. Overall, a good, informative and thoughtful reader. I wonder what part two has in store.
Profile Image for Christina.
1,363 reviews100 followers
November 23, 2014
Complimentary copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Anissa is hardly even a teenager when she must flee Syria, bound for the United States where she will seek asylum and live with her uncle. After witnessing the deaths of most of her family and the hands of Muslim Jihadists, and leaving the other half behind with other relatives, Anissa must start from the beginning, building a life that would have made her parents proud while maintaining a legacy as a Syriac Christian. She soon finds out that life is very different in the United States, however her promise to her father to become the best person she can be and carry on the fight on behalf of Christians in the Middle East, keeps her focused on her studies, as well as maintaining her virtue as a virgin.

When Anissa is admitted to Columbia, she embarks on a journey of finding herself and broadening her horizons, not only through the classes she attends, but also in her involvement with the MCA (Middle East Christian Association). She befriends its leader, Michael, on Facebook and months after meeting online, they finally meet face to face at a rally. Eventually the two become a couple and Anissa begins to explore the feelings of attraction she has towards Michael. College is a time of transformation for nearly all young adults, for Anissa it is even more so. It is a chance to find her identity in a country that, in theory, embraces religious and cultural diversity.

But Michael isn’t the only one that is vying for Anissa’s attention. Julien Morales is one of her professors and is 20+ years older than her. He prefers to surround himself with younger women, which make him feel younger himself. But not only is Anissa not even eighteen, she is also a current student. However Julien is finding it hard to put aside his feelings even though his career could be on the line. Anissa is interested in him as well, however it remains to be seen exactly in what capacity.

It is quite obvious that the author invested hours upon hours of research in order to lend authenticity to Anissa’s story. The plight of all people in the Middle East, especially after the advent of the Arab Spring, is something we see on the nightly news reports, yet so many people fail to understand what actually is happening in these regions. Love does an amazing job of making Anissa’s story real, something we can empathize with and feel called to action. The problem is that readers pick up a book and their own pasts can cloud the way in which they interpret a book. Michael’s idyllic dream of a Christian state in the Middle East seems naïve, especially given how he uses the example of Israel as an experiment of successful cultural integration, given the struggle that is still readily evident there.

The characters were multi-dimensional and believable; unfortunately I just really didn’t care for Michael. For some reason I just have a feeling of unease where he is concerned, a feeling that it seems Anissa shares on occasion. The storyline, told through journal entries by both Anissa and Julien is easy to follow and flows well, easily transitioning from the past to the present. I’m definitely eager to see how the relationship between Anissa and Julien develops

I’m a bit of a political wonk and I love stories that represent other cultures (Anth major!) so this book was right up my alley. As a writer primarily in the romance genre, I wondered how Love would pull off a book that was so mired in politics in order to make it a love story, but he seems to be off to a good start with the first of the two books planned. What seems to be building is a slow burn of attraction in the love triangle that is Anissa, Michael, and Julien. There is a lot going on in this book and the heavy back story and history may not be for everyone, but if you’re interested in an exceptionally well-written book that is timely and relevant, this one is for you.
Profile Image for Lee.
18 reviews3 followers
February 5, 2015

Provocative and unforgettable, The Syrian Virgin is unlike any romance I have read to-date. In my beloved but wildly uneven genre of escapist fiction, I was thrilled to find this intelligent, well-written, and informative love story! I’m adding this book to my list of favorites, which predominantly features works by Penny Reid and Amy Harmon.

My newest “go-to” author, Zack Love is a masterful and meticulous storyteller. From word one, his exceptional writing commanded my complete focus, and I became immersed in his compelling (and at times adrenalin pumping) plot. He embraced my need to understand his distinctive, complex characters and their motivations, and, surprisingly, brought me to a refreshed desire for knowledge about important global news.

Significantly, the book’s dedication reads, “To the people of Syria. The world let you down.” The premise and unfolding of The Syrian Virgin imparts a message of great import and an implicit, collective call to action, if only to pay closer attention to the world stage. (Its message, however, is not in any way preachy or religion-based.) Having read this book, I am changed forever, and for better! For that, FIVE STARS seems exceedingly inadequate.

Topical and eminently contemporary, this story shines a light on Anissa, a brave, smart and resilient Christian Syrian woman who escapes unimaginable terror in her homeland to begin anew as a student at Columbia. She becomes enamored of two potential love interests…Michael, a larger than life leader and activist determined to save the persecuted peoples in the Middle East and Julien, an outwardly successful professor/business mogul and committed bachelor haunted by his own childhood terrors and a personal nihilism.

I’m not usually a fan of love triangles, but this one is unusual and it really works! I can completely understand Anissa’s dilemma and dual attraction…each magnetic man (in high contrast to each other via circumstance and personality) offers her understanding, appreciation and a means, although vastly different, to help her family and people in Syria. Anissa is not indecisive; she is, however, thoughtful and thorough in examining her feelings and motivation to do what is right and good. She’s not perfect but still earns my admiration and investment in her happy ending. I enjoyed witnessing her character become more confident and charismatic as she realizes her potential and her power.

The story will continue in a sequel, Anissa’s Redemption, to be released in early spring, 2015. A dangling storyline can be a deal-breaker for me, but in this case, I was left with less of a cliffhanger-induced frustration and more of an opportunity to absorb the complexities of Anissa’s choices and to contemplate possibilities for her future. The Syrian Virgin ends at a logical moment in the plot progression, with enough information to leave me satisfied but also excited for the resolution of this remarkable tale.

I recommend The Syrian Virgin without reservation! If you’re like me, your only complaint will be not having read it sooner.
Profile Image for Kahea.
2,014 reviews105 followers
December 12, 2014
***I received a copy as a gift from N.M. Silber in exchange for an honest review***

Intense, insightful, heartbreaking, hopeful, sweet, eye opening and I could go on and on and on about this book and that says a lot since had it not been for spotting a post about an opportunity to review it, I never would have looked twice at it, as it doesn’t fall within the genres I typically read, but I’m happy I did. Hell, I unplugged so that I could give the book my entire attention and had to fight with myself, in my head of course, over wanting to finish it while not really wanting it to end.

Told through diary entries, we meet Anissa as a freshman in college in the US who is writing about her last memories of being in Syria with her family two years prior and the violence that led to her fleeing her home to the present day as a form of therapy, but also for herself. These entries are done in chronological order and you feel her anxiety over the escalating violence towards Christians, such as herself, and the gut wrenching and heartbreaking horror of the event that drives her away from her homeland and into a new life in New York. While Anissa is, as the title states, a ‘virgin’ she isn’t a naive one. As she states, she may be young in age she was fifteen when she had to flee, but she is no longer a child and I couldn’t help but admire how she strives to live her life and not wallow in despair over what she has lost and what she could still possibly lose. I do find some of her choices suspect, but the fact that she doesn’t allow her pain to drag her down nor does she go wild and crazy in her new world, makes it easier to accept.

While we meet people who matter the most to Anissa through her entries, her family, Maya, her best friend, and Michael, a man she has an interest in, we also meet Julian, one of her professors, not only through her diary entries, but through his own. It was a little weird for me when his first one comes into play but as the book progressed I came to find myself looking forward to his POV of things. In many ways Julian and Anissa are opposites, not only in their upbringing but their view of the world, but at the same time have a connection of sorts and as it plays out you do have to wonder how it will play out.

My only issue is that we are left with a cliffhanger ending. It’s a great place to end things, I had a total WTF?!? outburst, but as you can imagine frustrating as all get out. So now, I must wait patiently for the next book in the series...

Profile Image for Daina Lazzarotto.
36 reviews4 followers
November 10, 2014
It's truly a remarkable feeling to find a book that teaches you something and keeps you entertained along the way.

The Syrian Virgin starts off with "To the people of Syria. The world let you down." Which is very powerful statement and also a great way to start this powerful book. In this story you follow the life of Anissa a young Syrian girl who is forced to leave Syria at the age of 15, leaving members of her family behind her. Anissa has seen things at 15yrs old that I would never want to see or live through in my lifetime. You follow her journey to America, through high school and into college.

Anissa is a virgin in more ways then the literal sense so starting a new life in America is a challenge. She is lucky enough to make a good friend Maya who helps her adapt to college life, she meets 2 men who make her question things and have her thinking things she never thought she would be thinking.

There are a couple of times in this book that I cried so hard I had to stop reading because I couldn't see the words on the screen. There were also some amazingly hot scenes in this book.

I was disappointed that this story ended as I had so many questions, but I was glad to see that there will be a book 2 in this series.

This is not your typical romance story, which was a great change for me. Something needs to be said for books that make you take a close look at the world around you. We can sometimes believe that the problems outside our own boarders are not our concerns, that those horrific activities happening in the Middle East don't effect us. But what about them? What about their quality of life? What about if they live or die?

I am thankful to Zack Love for writing The Syrian Virgin and opening my eyes to what is happening in Syria. You can feel the passion that Zack has for this subject matter. He made me realize that just because my boarders are protected shouldn't mean I shouldn't care about what is going on in the world. Take a look around you and ask what can you do today to make tomorrow better.

I highly recommend this extremely well written and well researched book.
Profile Image for Crystal Solis.
323 reviews19 followers
November 27, 2014
The Syrian Virgin is my FAVORITE book by Zack Love so far, and I cannot wait for book two!!! That being said, let me just say that going into beta reading for Zack I was not sure at all what to expect with this book. The title kinda had me worried that it wouldn't be for me. I started to read the story and was not at all wowed by the description of the war against the Christians by ISIS in Syria (really in ALL of the Middle East), but the back story about Anissa's life in Syria was pretty sad. I was able to relate with Anissa and how she was feeling as she was going through losing her family little by little and finally having to flee the only home she ever knew in order to survive.
Could you imagine being only fifteen years old and having to leave everything and everyone you know and love behind to live with family that you barely remember? Anissa did just that and still had the strength to make perfect grades and get herself into a University. She even met a boy named Michael online that she was able to relate to while looking for a martial arts class. She felt a connection when she saw that he was an activist that was fighting for the rights of Christians in the Middle East. This spurred Anissa to go to his University and work her tail off to make perfect grades at only seventeen years of age.
While attending the University in New York she meets her professor and billionaire money tycoon Julien Morales. Right away she feels a connection for the second time during her short time in the United States. This makes for a really screwed up love triangle, which I hope gets resolved in book two. Zack Love did a wonderful job getting me sucked into this book and really had me rooting for Anissa to succeed. I wish I could tell y'all what I told Zack about how Anissa should proceed with Michael, but he might be upset at me for giving away such a huge spoiler so that will have to wait for another time. :)
Profile Image for Karen Mc .
934 reviews731 followers
December 6, 2014
**Received an ARC for an honest review by Bookalicious Babes Blog**

The Syrian Virgin--a book outside my norm of tattooed biker boys or hot alpha billionaires--was a pleasant surprise. I thought this was a story about a Syrian virgin's escape to the US to find a male suitor to pop her cherry. But my being a 'history virgin' who is pretty clueless in the subject of Middle East affairs...the only cherry popped was mine.

This story draws in the reader and provides a valuable, intriguing, and engaging history lesson. Reading The Syrian Virgin is like watching a documentary or even living the story, like the Diary of Anne Frank, with its artfully-chosen and skillful words. This book is written in my favorite first-person POV with journal entries between Anissa, the 'Syrian Virgin,' and Julian, who is one of the main male characters and her professor.

Anissa's life is shattered at a young age by extreme Islamic terrorists in Syria, forcing her to flee to the United States and leave everything and everyone behind. Professor and Hot Wall Street Financier and Bachelor, Julian has a dark past of his own that starts to unfold in this story. Both Anissa and Julian's troubled lives with tumultuous histories bring them together. But there is also her friend and casual boyfriend, Michael, the Syrian-Christian-American advocate for religious rights in the Middle East who is hot in the mix.

The book ends in a cliff-hanger with many unanswered questions like, Who will Anissa choose or who will choose her? Is there more to her troubled past in Syria? What happened to her family still left in her native country? What is the troubled professor's story? And more...I can't wait for book 2! The Syrian Virgin blasted me out of my norm and shined a bright light into my usual reading type wtih this brilliantly written story!

Well done, Zack Love...and...well...I LOVED this book!

5 Cherry-Popping Stars!
Profile Image for Anima.
2,410 reviews33 followers
November 10, 2014
Beta reading is an important process for an author, a good test for content and grammatical errors. Having only done it for a few authors I was honored to read for Zack. He has since worked on it but my review won't change even after the new additions.

It's obvious he did a tremendous amount of research concerning Syria and the terrible war currently happening. I imagine it's difficult to write a historical romance about hundreds of years ago, but a current historically accurate romance is a greater challenge. This isn't your usual romance with dramatic sex scenes and typical angsty type behavior. This one is thought provoking and serious, a few snarky comments and comedy make it completely well rounded.

Anissa is young, extremely intelligent and mature thanks to her tremendous hardships. Through her ordeal in Syria and travels to America her intelligence becomes apparent. Imagine being 15 years old, a refugee without close family having to adjust to a new country - not something I want to experience. Although the author spends most of the novel educating the readers about Syria it is a romance. She finds herself attached to Michael, grad student and activist. Her professor is also someone she looks up to and considers a peer, although he's in his early 40s. It's a wonderful love triangle of sorts and beautifully written. This isn't a novel to read with the tv on or while waiting to pick up kids at school. It's one of those that will cause you to put your mind and heart to work. There will be a second novel to continue Anissa's story.
Profile Image for Verna Loves Books.
426 reviews60 followers
December 10, 2014
The Syrian Virgin is like nothing I’ve read before, but it is so unique and intriguing that I couldn’t put it down. I loved the story line and everything it involved. You get a sense of history in this story and a really sad one at that. I loved Anissa’s diary entries because you get to know her better and get an in depth view of everything that she goes through. It will break your heart the night she loses everything. I adored her strength throughout the book. No matter what happened she kept going and trying to do the best she could for her family’s sake. So if you love reading an amazing story that will just blow you away and leave you wondering about things today and things that happen in other countries, not to mention a story about finding yourself and love, then this story is a must. I definitely give Zack a big thumbs up for The Syrian Virgin; his stories just keep captivating me and always surprise me.

I give The Syrian Virgin Five Unique Stars!!
Profile Image for Jade.
1,255 reviews27 followers
September 27, 2015
I was given this book in exchange for an honest review

**I have no idea how to rate this book so for now it won't get a rating.**

I absolutely loved the history portion of this book and the sort of current events aspects on the going ons in Syria. I was obsessed with that part of the novel and would hands down give that a 5 star. But I was not a fan of the romance portion of the book whatsoever. I found both men, Julien and Michael, to be creepy and they made me uncomfortable. I just felt that neither had redeeming qualities, and the fact that they were pursuing a 17 year old girl made me feel that much more uncomfortable.

What I loved:
-I loved Anissa's growth as a person. I felt that that was amazing, empowering, and uplifting not only because she is a young woman coming into her own, but also because she was a young woman being ripped from her country during dangerous war torn times. Her home was essentially a battle field and the event that happened to her family was beyond traumatic, so every time she succeeded in a class or when she got the top score in Julien's class I was so excited and happy for her!

-The facts and history of Syria. I thought that this was my favorite part of the novel. It is all so sad but beautifully written, you feel for these people and, you feel disgusted that their story is one that goes untold for so long. This novel definitely brings some light on this country and the horrors it has gone through and is going through, and it has definitely educated me in ways I did not expect when I first started reading.

-The fact that most if not all of the characters are POC. I love the representation that we POC get in this book. It is so rare to see any color but white in novels let alone novels about wealthy and successful businessmen/women, and educated people.

What I didn't like:
-The whole romance portion of the book. I felt like it was very unnecessary and felt slightly out of place. The book was focused on Anissa coming from Syria to America in order to have religious freedom and to have a better future and education. This weird semi- love triangle felt very off and to me took away from the beauty of the story. I sometimes found myself skimming over the parts that had to do with her "confusing" relationship with both men.

-Julien and Michael. They were both sort of creepy and made me uncomfortable. I don't know, but I just did not like them and they both rubbed me the wrong way. It also felt very odd that men of 28 and 40 something were pursuing a young girl of 17 who was very vulnerable in a new country, and was sort of naive in some relationship aspects. They both felt like they were out for more than what was being offered, and I don't even know how to explain it but it all felt very unsafe. Also, Julien would constantly bring up her young age and how her "innocent youthful beauty" shined through whenever she was dressed up for his parties. It just felt really fetishizing, and instead of her age just being a part of her, it almost felt like it was a need for his attraction. And Michael felt very arrogant and slightly cult leader-ish, his wants for a better place and equality was beautiful and admirable. But a lot of the things he said gave me pause and made me think that peace is not the only reason he is leading these people in protests and during club meetings.

-The title. While reading I kept trying to figure out how the title fit into the story, besides the fact that she is a virgin who is Syrian. It felt like the title was setting the book up to be something that it's really not. Plus it's sort of off-putting when browsing for future books to read, I know if I saw this on the shelf at a store I probably would skip right over it. The title makes it sound like the novel is all about sex when in reality is so about so much more, and it sucks that people will see it as a sex book instead of the intense journey that it is.

-The internalized misogyny. I felt like there was an extreme judgement of women by women, especially regarding women's expression of their sexuality. It felt like there was only two ways a woman could at, and that was either slutty or sexy in a "classy" way. And it felt like all that judgement was coming from Anissa and Julien.

Final thoughts
For the most part I enjoyed this story. It was really unlike anything that I have ever read before and I definitely recommend it. I could have done without the romance and the love triangle-ish aspect, but I feel like the good in this book outweighed the bad.
Profile Image for Jennifer Guffey.
1,113 reviews39 followers
August 1, 2015
The Syrian Virgin: A Young Woman’s Journey… (Syrian Virgin series #1)
By: Zack Love
5/5 stars

This was such an emotional book for me to read. I applaud author Zack Love for embarking on such an emotional, political, religious, romantic, (and so many more things that as of yet, I can’t put into words!) journey. I believe he undertook a monumental task in not only writing this book, but in doing the research so that he was able to give his readers an accurate book of the persecutions many people in the Middle East face on a daily basis.

The first four chapters were the hardest to get through, but only because they written about Anissa’s last few days in Syria, before she escaped to Canada & then passed into the U.S. to live with an Uncle and his family. She is a religious Syriac Christian, a virgin, a survivor, and a refugee. She is also an intelligent student and light years more mature than the young people her age due to the circumstances in which she lived. She suffers from PTSD and most likely survivor’s guilt as well, but has a wonderful therapist to help her work through it.

When she is New York, she finishes high school with honors and gets into every school to which she applied. She is determined to live up to the goals that her father challenged her to, not only for herself and her family, but for all persecuted Christians.

While in college she meets Michael, a handsome Syrian/Egyptian Christian, born & raised in the United States, who is 10-11 years her senior. She is taken by how enigmatic he is and what a natural leader he is as well and the passion that he feels for the Middle East Christians and the vision he has for their future. The second man she meets is her professor, Julien Morales a Latin-American, a self-made billionaire businessman, who is 24 years her senior. She is drawn to both of them for similar and different reasons. They are both powerful, enigmatic men, yet both are inherently flawed.

At the end of the book, we aren’t left with a cliffhanger, but we are left with many questions. What will the future hold for Anissa and the possibility of the two men that she has developed feelings for. What do they want from her? I personally can’t wait for the next book! It is slated to be released in early 2015.

**I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review.**
Profile Image for Alison.
458 reviews24 followers
February 4, 2016
5 Stars!

I was given this book to read in turn for an honest review!!!

Anissa at the young age of fifteen fled to New York to follow her father's wish. Traumatised and changed forever by the Syrian Civil War she had no choice but to flee. Anissa was a traditional Christian; her mother expressed to Anissa that her virginity was special to be shared with only the man she marries.

Anissa has a fresh start in America; the continuous conflict back home is never far from her mind. Determined to one day make a difference she excels in her classes at college with the aim of gaining a good job and earning enough money to help Michael a fellow Syrian-Christian with his political efforts to protect their community. Anissa’s college Professor Julien could hold the key to helping Anissa in more than one way. What Anissa hadn’t planned on was being drawn to both of these men.

Trying to live with the devastation and starting a new life in America can be very daunting at the young age of fifteen. Can Anissa find the strength to live and follow her fathers wish? Will Anissa gain more in college than she had bargained for?

Wow, this story is what I had hoped and a whole lot more. From the beginning of this book, you are hooked! Zack Love has done his research for this story, and he portrays it well. You can truly feel the emotions of Anissa as she writes her experiences of living in Syria. Taking aside the emotion and seriousness of this book, Zack Love does not fail to add a spin of humour to it, in regards to Anissa and the two men she finds herself fascinated by. In an ironic way, I found myself laughing at how Zack has left us waiting for more! I should feel mad that the story has been left with so many questions but when you read this story you will see how well it all fits together and the ending to book #1 is perfect for book #2 to pick up from. I am looking forward to the next book in the series.

I would recommend this book for those looking for something different. It has suspense, saga, romance and a little humour. You won’t be disappointed!

Profile Image for Christy Wilson.
516 reviews5 followers
February 14, 2015
Do not expect to read anything like Sex in the Title. This is the story of Inas, known as Anissa in the U.S., and her escape from Syria during their Civil War in 2012. Her father makes many arrangements for her to leave the country, as she is very smart and has a good future in front of her, and he stresses to her that she must get a good education and use it to help the world recognize the plight in their home country. The writing is wonderful, and you cannot help but get caught up in what happens. You cannot help but feel the fear and sorrow Anissa feels as she leaves her family by herself, at age 15, to move to a country she really knows nothing about.

I am a total dummy and I will admit it when it comes to the Middle East and what is going on there. I was thoroughly fascinated with the beginning of the book which explained the turmoil and horrible atrocities that are happening. It makes one feel a bit ashamed for living in your own little bubble of a world when things like this are happening. Further, we in the United States really should be thankful for the freedoms we have.

The book was interesting all the way through, but maybe wordy for some people. It does move forward into Anissa's life in New York as she attends college and meets two men who influence her during her freshman year in college - Michael, a student working toward getting his Ph D who has plans of creating the first Mideast State, and Julien, one of her professors who also runs a hedge fun and is over the top wealthy.

Reader should know that this story does continue. I did not realize it did, and as the percentage I read got higher, I because aware that there was no way that the story would be "resolved." So this is a story that will continue.

Overall, this book was a great, interesting read and kept me hooked. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
December 11, 2014
The Syrian Virgin by Zack Love is a beautifully written story about a young woman's journey from the tragedy she endures as a result of the Syrian Civil War as a 15 year-old, to a young woman starting to live her life again two years later. Anissa's story is told through diary entries where she recounts her life from the start of the Syrian War to her current life as a college student. The harrowing journey has you gripped from the opening pages and leaves you feeling shocked and heartbroken for Anissa to the point you have to stop for a moment.

Out of the destruction she does slowly rebuild her life and it's in college that Anissa starts to open up. She meets Maya, a friend who she instantly connects with and two men who will no doubt change her life. Michael is the Syrian-Christian student who she is enamored with from the beginning. Julien, her billionaire professor who may have more in common with her than she thinks. What this leads to is a remarkable story.

Zack Love does a superb job with The Syrian Virgin. He takes you on a emotional journey with Anissa that you are going to remember for a long time. He makes you think, cry, laugh, get angry and gives you hope as you read this book. At the end of it, you are eager to get your hands on the next book in this series. The amount of research that went into this story is evident in every single page. Zack brilliantly takes current events and turns it into a contemporary romance that unlike any other book out there. After you read it you want to know more about the situation going on in Syria and the Middle East. The Syrian Virgin is a book that needs to be on your must read list. I can't recommend this book enough. It's a thought provoking story that is Zack's best book to date.
Profile Image for Ginger Snaps.
436 reviews21 followers
December 21, 2014
Wow. This book is part I in a series about a girl who flees Syria due to the atrocities committed against the Syrian Christians by ISIS. I love how the book is in the format of diary entries by Anissa as she struggles to deal with things she saw and endured before her escape as well as learning to live and thrive in America. In College she meets up with two men and it seems that you can see a future possible romance budding with either of them. One of them is consumed by his mission for helping the Syrian Christians and the other is intriguing yet consumed by his own demons. I must confess that for a good portion of the book I was rooting for Anissa to end up with one guy, only to have my desires switched to the other. (I won't say whom!) I was so moved by this book that often I forgot I was reading fiction instead of an autobiography. The persecution of Christians in the Middle East is a current travesty, so it's hard not to get sucked into the characters... making them real in your head, which ultimately makes a book so great. This is not just a simple romance. The book is complex and I immensely enjoyed the philosophical discussions that occurred in this book. These discussions challenge the reader to pick a side or to perhaps not be so quick to judge others and to enlarge your own world view. The book has also challenged me to stay more informed on the current situation of Christians in the Middle East beyond reading an article or watching a documentary. Also, in regards to this book, I CANNOT WAIT to get my hands on the sequel to find out what happens with Anissa, her family in Syria, the men in her life, and find out who she ends up with!
Profile Image for Lisa Karafa.
83 reviews68 followers
January 1, 2015
In a sea of cookie cutter romances that lack research, The Syrian Virgin is a refreshing change and stands out at the head of its class in contemporary romance.

I loved the level of detail that went into writing this story. It showcases the amount of time and energy that went into exploring the situation surrounding not only the historic and current state in Syria but the Middle Eastern region in general. It also made me question how we currently receive information through mass media outlets in what gets shared and what gets buried and virtually ignored.

Zack plunges us into a different world as we meet Anissa in her home country. She is dealing with profound changes happening as the political landscape shifts from a dictatorship to one where Islamist radicals are terrorizing the region by persecuting anyone who does not share their extreme religious views. Anissa’s family, who are Christian, find themselves in danger as the city she lives in is taken over and Sharia Law imposed.

The ideas and concepts she is exposed to through her college courses and extracurricular activities create an interesting path that provides two avenues for her to choose from. In some ways the avenues intersect and in others they run parallel. She faces some very grown up decisions for a young woman and desires to do what she can to help the greater good even if it means altering her morals to achieve her objectives.

The twist at the end has me very much wanting to know what happens next and I look forward to seeing where Zack takes Anissa in the next book.

If you enjoy books like A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Joy Luck Club, The Syrian Virgin is a must read.
Profile Image for Heidi Ryan.
310 reviews11 followers
November 10, 2014
This is an account of what it is like to live in the middle East and experience the fear and abuse that the Christians in this area have gone through and are still going through. It is a fascinating read not to be taken lightly. The horrors and utter terror that this young lady, Inas, has gone through will make your blood boil. When things look far to dangerous in her hometown of Homs, her father decides to send her to New York to stay with her uncle Tony and his family. With her older sister and little brother staying in Raqqa to the north, her journey to America will be alone. Fifteen at the time, her last night with her parents and older brother turns into a nightmare. She is forced to flee with only a backpack. Her journey just to the airport will fill your with fear. She begins a new life in New York, but she does not fit in anywhere. She has aged decades past her peers, and she is unlike any american girl. Boys, clothes, the latest gossip have no place with her. Getting to college is her focus, and her promise to her parents. But once she gets there, her eyes are opened to a path to make life better for those left behind. Between the activist Michael and the billionaire professor Julian, her heart is taken to places she has no reference for. Her path is uncertain, but her heart is pure. This is as much a teaching book as it is a romance. Inas' journey is rough, and challenging, but following her struggles will open your heart and your mind. I cannot wait to see what happens in the next book.
Profile Image for Jessica .
935 reviews17 followers
December 5, 2014
5 Stars, highly recommend this book to all readers!!!

This books is awesome. Zack Love has a great book here. It is well written, the story flows very well. Great characters. I was hooked from page one until the very end! This was the first book I have read by this author. I look forward to TSV2.

I feel Zack did an amazing job doing his research for this book, He brought life in Syria and the middle east to light in this book. He made me think about how people are treated and it breaks my heart. I wasn't blind to the life over in Syria and the middle east but it brought it front and center while reading this book. So I thank him for that.

I cried while reading the struggles Anissa's life, from having to leave her family in Syria and moving to the USA at the tender age of 15. Her Family was trying to protect her, but dang that would be hard to do, knowing you may or may not see your family again(I don't think I could it) She not only did it, she did it with a strength that would be hard for anyone in her situation. She still got A's in school went on to University.

She finds a connection with Michael an activist that was fighting for the rights of Christians in the Middle East and then again attending the University in New York she meets her professor and billionaire money tycoon Julien Morales which leads to a Love Triangle.

I can't wait for TSV2 to see where the characters go, and to learn more about the characters.

Great job Zack! I look forward to reading many more books by you.
Profile Image for Melinda.
755 reviews10 followers
March 31, 2015
The Syrian Virgin by Zack Love.
5 Stars

When I first started reading this book, I honestly didn't want to continue. Not because the book is poorly written, but because it is written *too* well. On a personal level, I found that the content was confronting and hit a little too close to home (plus, I generally prefer my reads to be light and fluffy, or just downright sexy). Having said all this, I'm so glad I continued. The author addresses so many important issues in this book - both political and religious - all while weaving a love story. We learn how and why Anissa left Syria and came to be in New York. We learn her motivations and goals. We learn all this because the book is predominantly written by Anissa in the form of diary entries. We also get to know Julian, Anissa's university professor and potential love interest, and Michael, Anissa's 'Christian Hero' and also love interest. Love triangle? At this point I'm not sure I would say that, but I'm definitely looking forward to reading book two of this duet to see what happens next.

If you want to read something light and fluffy (like my usual reads) then this is not for you. However, if you want something that is unapologetically real and honest, then don't hesitate to pick it up. Amazingly written, flawless and raw. 5 stars from me.

Reviewed for Jo&IsaLoveBooks Blog
Profile Image for Louise Bailey.
118 reviews6 followers
December 22, 2014
*** I received a copy aa gift from N.M. Silber in exchange for honest review***
Wow such a powerful and moving story story. Nothing like I have read before, Very poignant and relevant.
Anissa is very traumatised by the conflict of the Syrian Civil War, in 2012.
Islamists terrorise a Syrian Christian community and they end up destroying everything Anissa holds very dearly and narrowly escaping with her life.
Annissa realises she has to restart her devastated life at college in N.Y
Forgo her father wish's to be successful and to still fight for her believes, And to make something if herself something her parents would be proud of.
Despite her very inexperience with men and the world and life in America. Anissa is very quickly drawn to two individual's - Michael Kassab, Syrian- American leader working to fund the first Mideast Christian state.
And Julien Morales, Her Colombia university Professor who runs a $20 Billion hedge fund.
Anissa heart and her communal ties push and pull her in different directions as she seeks hope, faith and renewal into the darkened state of the world.

reviewed on behalf of louise 'loppylou' book blog
Profile Image for Shannon.
92 reviews3 followers
January 26, 2015

**4.5 STARS**

I started my personal 2015 reading challenge off with new-to-me author, Zack Love and THE SYRIAN VIRGIN. Based on the title alone, I wanted to like this story. I planned to immerse myself in this novel based not only on all of the good book buzz and recommendations, but also because I'm part Syrian (my maternal grandmother). What a discovery!

I have a thing, a very serious thing, for authors that slightly, but intentionally, skew the tried-and-true H/h/HEA and give a distinct and unique voice to fiction. With The Syrian Virgin, Zack Love dared to be different in his creation of a multi-genre, non-formulaic novel. Part romance, part drama, (Rom-Dram perhaps?), it is a contemporary story with a historically driven and emotionally intense plot.

International suspense, a love triangle, student-teacher attraction and the honor and worth of a young woman’s virginity, the author blends many tropes in a timely tour de fictional force with the actual ongoing civil war and the unspeakable violence in Syria serving as a backdrop.

Looking forward to reading the next installment in this series . . . especially after the delicious cliffhanger-style ending.
Profile Image for Maria.
32 reviews7 followers
November 10, 2014
This was a book that was so many things to me..first I became so much more aware of the Middle East and the world around me and how we think we perceive a situation or a way of life. This is also a tale of a young women written in diary form, sent from Syria, from her family for a chance at a new life. The writing is superb in laying out the world from where she came to the new adventures to which she embarks. She is driven by her promise to her father to excel in her chance at a new life. Her college adventure is a fascinating look at our culture and how we live our lives and our perceptions.
But this is also a love story ..of two men who find this women fascinating in her intelligence, youth and beauty. One older and one a younger man and they both want her in their lives. But this her story as well, of self discovery and her coming in to her own in oh so many ways.
I really enjoyed how this had me expanding my mind and my perceptions. I came invested quickly on how her story would unfold. I highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Jhumjhum Chakrabarti.
36 reviews16 followers
January 2, 2015
Well, the date I started reading the book and the date I finished reading it speaks it all for me- simply unputdownable. Picked up on a recommendation from Anima Gildarez, all thanks to her, I don't regret having made the choice.
The book serves as the most poignant eye-opener to the Syrian Civil war and the pain and tribulations of those bereft of their country and most importantly, their family.
It's not that people over the world have chosen to stay blind to the Syrian crisis, but the way Zack Love has portrayed the struggles in young Anissa's life has simply taken our heart out to those Syrian refugees compelled to move out to find a place for themselves in the world.
Unlike most readers, I feel the love triangle forms a backdrop to the main theme that is to wake the world up to the present situation in Syria. A very well researched and the research equally put into execution,the book deserves nothing but a five star rating from me. Highly recommended for the readers of the genre.
Author 2 books12 followers
November 25, 2014
I loved this book on so many levels. First and foremost, it's really well written, like all the other books I've read by this author, actually. The story is captivating and very intense. I admire Mr Love for deciding to touch a controversial topic and bring awareness around the tragic condition of people that are going through the horrors of war, and women especially. This book is also an amazing example of how a work of fiction can be highly informative. If you are curious about the world, and the Middle East in particular, this book will probably teach you something. I look forward to book #2 in this series!
Profile Image for Christina.
166 reviews4 followers
December 2, 2014
So I will be completely honest, this is an amazing story. Zack Love has captured this story beautifully and accurately . Being Palestinian and living in The West Bank for a couple of years and seeing what happens there brings this story close to the heart .. The POV of Inas is eye opening, A girl living one life somewhat closed in moving to another country to escape persecution. She is a brave girl, I love how Zack has showed the naivety of Inas when she starts college. Zack I can’t wait for the second book to come out, please don’t make us wait too long. 5 stars from me ~Chris
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