CW: bullying, public outing of a character
I have been waiting to read this book for so long now that I’ve lost count. And it didn’t help that I always seem to get rejected for ownvoices ARCs. But I was delighted to finally get my library copy so that I can join in with my friends who have all loved it so much.
The one thing I could tell right from the first page is that I was gonna smile through the whole book. The writing is light hearted, fun, with lots of awkward and silly and adorable moments and on the whole, just some thorough entertainment. I thought the author’s idea of combining the traditional Indian style of matchmaking with modern and technologically advanced dating apps was genius and it made for a very lovely story – while giving us the pros and cons of both methods. The setting of the high school was pretty realistic too and I liked that the author didn’t try too much get the teenage voice right. The pacing is very fast and I flew through the book so quickly that I didn’t even realize it was almost the end. Each chapter also has a lovely mehendi design and a quote from the MC’s family’s matchmaking guide, which I thought was excellent symbolism for the book as a whole. I think the only problem I had was with the main bully in the high school (I’m so over the mean girl trope) and while I’m sure that every school might have someone like that irl, I’m not sure we need more girl on girl hate in YA novels.
And obviously I thought the desi representation was amazing – right from the slightly nosy moms and aunts, the slight obsession with engineers and doctors, the descriptions of yummy food, the importance of wearing a turban as a Sikh, the differences between how the elders feel about mehendi being something scared whereas the youngsters finding it unique and fun, the rituals and ceremonies – there are just so many little things which I may not even have noticed because they were organically part of the story and the characters and I loved being in the middle of it all. And come on, the multiple mentions of samosas and pakodas and Limca just made me hungry, but unfortunately I didn’t have any handy to munch on.
I adored Simi from page 1. She is a sweet but clumsy high school sophomore, who has this habit of falling over at inopportune times. She is an amazing artist and I loved that her parents didn’t seem to have too much of a problem with that. Her friendship with her BFF Noah is total goals and I loved how they encouraged and motivated each other all the time, but also gave space when one needed it. Noah is gay and it isn’t really mentioned how many in the larger context of the school know about him, but I liked that whoever did were very supportive. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the acceptance of Simi’s family because homophobia in Indian families is quite common. Simi’s family is also appropriately intrusive but very fun loving as well as dependable, and I loved all of them.
I’d read in a couple of reviews there are two boys in the books and Simi chooses one. I kept hoping it wasn’t a love triangle situation and I loved the way the author managed to navigate Simi’s feelings for the two. I could totally feel all the awkwardness and tingles that Simi was feeling and it was sweet watching her get to know them better and make a decision. There are also many other classmates of theirs who meet and start going out due to Simi and Noah’s app, and I thought all of it was done very nicely without any drama. It was refreshing to see a fun group of diverse couples.
I think the main theme of this book was about finding what we want to do in life. Simi doesn’t feel interested in her family’s matchmaking business or the boy her family may like, because she doesn’t want to do what’s expected. But her journey of realizing that it’s not bad to like doing something that also meets her family’s expectations, or not having to choose between her various interests – this was all written very well and in such a subtle manner that you don’t even realize it. And due to the whole concept of matchmaking, there is a lot of emphasis on compatibility, but also about the fact that two people may seem perfect on paper but they might not be good together because deeper values and motivations are much more important for a successful relationship. I think the overall message of the book that whether traditional Indian style matchmaking or modern dating apps, what makes two people click remains the same is something that comes out beautifully and I think we can all agree with that.
To conclude, I just wanna say that if you love fun YA contemporaries and want to smile for a bit, pick this book up. If you particularly love desi books like I do, then I promise you can’t go wrong with this amazing debut. And while I’m very very excited to see what the author comes up with next, I’m also a bit sad that this book is already done and I can’t experience it all over again.