The summer of 1973 starts out like any typical summer in Tehran for 17-year-old Pasha and his best friend, Ahmed. But it is a summer to be cherished, for it is their last summer of merrymaking and stargazing before their last year of high school, after which Pasha is to leave for the United States to follow the path his father has determined is his future - civil engineering. For now, Pasha and Ahmed’s nights are spent on the cool rooftop, “under stars that seem close to touch.” It is one of the rare places in the neighborhood where they can speak of their hearts’ desires, especially about their crushes on girls in their neighborhoods: "There are no walls around what we say, or fears shaping what we think."
Ahmed spends his time musing about his crush Faheemeh’s feelings for him:
“His voice softens and his face quiets as he describes how she threw back her long black hair while looking at him – and how that must mean she loves him. Why else would she strain her neck to communicate with him?”
Unfortunately for Pasha, Zari, the girl with whom he is secretly in love, has been engaged since childhood to his friend and mentor, a university student whom everyone calls Doctor. It's hard for Pasha not to like Doctor, as he is well-read and has the same taste in books, including a large collection of government-banned books.
Doctor’s passion for politics and religion gets him in serious trouble with the Shah’s secret police, especially after a televised trial of a gang of young men and women arrested for plotting to kill the Shah. He leaves Tehran for the rest of the summer, asking Pasha to take care of Zari. That summer becomes the best summer of Pasha’s life as his friendship with Zari blossoms. But their carefree summer is shattered when Doctor returns to the neighborhood with the secret police in hot pursuit. He is arrested and detained, and the violent consequences shake up not only Pasha and Zari’s relationship but also wake Pasha up to the reality of life in Iran.
Set in pre-revolutionary Iran, this first novel is a coming-of-age tale of friendship and young love that knows no boundaries. Despite its unsettling backdrop, there are many joyous moments in the book as Pasha’s relationship with Zari grows and his relationship with the comical Ahmed strengthens. While Pasha’s love for Zari is heartfelt, it is the love between the two best friends that is truly infectious. Rooftops of Tehran is a sweet novel set in a dramatic period with endearing characters whose innocence and friendship touches its readers’ hearts.