Welcome to another session of Turning Pages!
It's hard to critically review a book when you want to gush about it, but I'm going to make an effort. If you need a feel-good, Happily Ever After, this book is one you'll want to tuck into your carry-on bag. With your iced coffee in hand, board your plane, knowing you've got the perfect vacation read. You'll want to hug this book, too.
Synopsis: Dimple Shah would like her mother, please, to STEP BACK UP OFF OF HER a little. Just... a little. If she hears one more nattering bit of gossip about who's getting married, about wearing eyeliner and looking more attractive so she can land the Ideal Indian Husband, or growing out her hair, beti, it's beautiful, why don't you do something with it, she. is. going. to. SNAP. It's a miracle and amazing that her very protective mother and soft-spoken father have finally been talked into letting her go to Stanford. She's earned that, and they're proud of her, yay. But, that they are letting her go to SFSU for a summer program for up-and-coming web developers -- is unprecedented! There HAS to be a catch??? Her mother cannot possibly be suddenly behind her coding and computer engineering dreams, can she??? Well... actually... yes? And no.
Rishi Patel is the serious-minded, loving son of two amazing people whose love is the type sung about in Bollywood films. He wants that -- badly. He wants what they have, wants that harmony, that purpose, that ...support. He believes in love, believes in family and tradition. So, when his parents suggest that he go to SFSU's summer coders program and check out the daughter of his parents' very dear friends, he thinks, "Why not?"
The agony, the ecstasy, and the expectations of love are all the things that make us play the game. Dimple and Rishi and their friends just have yet to figure out the score... but, they will.
Observations: This novel brings the funny: we all cheesed at the front cover, but my people, look at the back!! Two steps forward... two steps back...
Yes, I am channeling junior high and Janet Jackson, because we all THINK we love romances with the idea of "opposites attract," but when it comes down to it, often, it feels like if characters are TOO opposite, they're unevenly matched, and SOMEONE will have to make a 180° change in who they are... Things like compromise are too often something that's considered boring and too real life for the fantasy of romance. One thing I adored about this was how hostile Dimple was to the idea of romance - because of that reason. Because there's an expectation that if someone is going to change, it' going to be the woman, and if someone has to sacrifice, society is looking at her expectantly again. It makes her ANGRY - with a baffled fury which she struggles to express. She WANTS the dream. She WANTS the gooey HEA. But, real life doesn't provide a place for anyone to have it all, man or woman. If you want to be in love AND have a career where you kick butt and take names... well... you're going to have to work for it like nothing before. And, we don't see, in Western society, enough of that work in action to believe in it.
I love that Rishi is so... wonderful. He's almost too good, and I feared for him, until he started to act like a butthead, and then I was like, "Oh, good. That Mature And Amazing thing only goes so far. Human nature and emotions cloud his head, too. I love the exploration of his relationship with his brother - *sibling magic!* - and I love that guys can care about each other in tender ways... even while giving THE WORST ADVICE EVER. I love that both Rishi and Dimple were sometimes beyond brave. Their romance felt real and long-lasting, and the type of thing you knew they could look back and tell their grandkids. Too often, teen romances have an element of "we won't tell our parents" and the fact that this is ABOUT their families and their futures, is, in a way, such a great twist. I'd love to see more novels where the parents aren't just invisible.
Conclusion: I generally don't read YA romances, because they disappointed me when I was a teen too much. Romances can leave you feeling a little wistful and lonely, as if you can never have what you've just read about, and that goes double if you've only ever read about majority Western families non-Indian families who don't have parents - or parental expectations - or skin-and-hair and lives like you do. But, this romance is a big-hearted, hilarious, tear-inducing -- wonderful-fest, which can be read by everyone, guys and girls, Hindu and Christians - it's inclusive, yet it's very special in that it's going to be extra special for the South Asian teens who identify with the snacks and the songs and the aunties. I love it like watermelon mint iced tea. (Sorry; cannot DO the iced coffee, people.) I just have an extra-special warmth in my heart to think teen readers LOL-ing at this, and I'm betting someone needs to make it a movie, STAT.
I received my copy of this book courtesy of the public library. You can find WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI by Sandhya Menon at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!