A modern tale of traditional beliefs set in San Francisco in the heat of summer – it’s sure to make you smile your way through!
[Photo from Goodreads]
Dimple’s mother wants her to find the ideal Indian husband. Right now. Dimple, however, is more concerned with following her career dream of becoming an app-developer, which she can chase at Insomnia Con, a 6-week programme at the University of San Francisco which will allow her to build and pitch an app to her idol. Also attending Insomnia Con, is Rishi, but he’s there for different reasons: namely, too woo Dimple. When Dimple realises her parents have tried to arrange a marriage partner for her without consulting her, and when this realisation occurs upon meeting Rishi, drama ensues.
Who can name a mainstream YA book about arranged marriages? Scrap that, who can name one even broadly about Indian culture and tradition? I certainly can’t, and that’s why Menon’s debut novel was such a breath of fresh air: it’s tackling an important and interesting subject, that is still very much a part of popular culture, but making it accessible, and not demonising it, for younger people. Indeed, Menon is targeting it at the age group who may well face issues such as parental expectations, career path crises, and relationship woes. Coming at these topics from two perspectives is a really good move by Menon, I think, because it gives a different POV, and the quick pace at which she changes between them not only allows for some comic wit, but also means the romance plot never gets stale.
I’m an admittedly soppy reader so I really enjoyed the pointing to fate, or as Rishi refers to it ‘kismet’, that seemed to surround their relationship. But I can also value the romance as a healthy plot: Rishi and Dimple were equals, they were both independent and capable of following their own paths, and they also took space from each other to work out what they wanted, which in the end turned out to be each other! Even more importantly, Menon didn’t adhere to stereotypes of romantic contemporary fiction. Rather, she has Rishi as the traditionalist, the romantic, the artist, and Dimple as the tech-savvy, driven figure. When female characters are usually placed in the former role, this is not only inherently sexist, but reductive to their personality because it’s so archetypal. However, when Rishi is characterised as so, it rings true because Menon fleshes out his motivations and beliefs so thoroughly that it doesn’t just feel descriptive or tag-on, but real.
Overall, I think this book has some really important messages, ranging from how to cope with competition in life, to how to balance society’s needs (which, in this book is represented by the parents) with your own. Dimple and Rishi are warm characters who, even at their worst, will burrow into your hearts. The only thing I regret is not finishing this book by the time I got to San Fran because I would for sure have loved to check some of the places Menon refers to out!