Rating: 4 stars
All Dimple Shah wants is to go to Stanford and become a web developer. She fights against her mother's expectations of her, that she wear girlier clothes and make-up and find a "nice Indian husband". When her parents agree to let her attend a web development seminar in San Francisco for the summer, she becomes more optimistic that they may in fact support her career goals.
Rishi Patel loves hearing the story about how his parents met and has no problem with the idea of his parents arranging his future marriage. Even if he knows nothing about programming, he will happily attend a web development seminar in San Francisco before going off to MIT, since that's where his intended is going to be, giving him the chance to properly woo her. Unfortunately, their first meeting is somewhat of a disaster, as it turns out Dimple has absolutely no idea who he is and what her and Rishi's parents have been discussing. While Rishi embraces his Indian culture and loves the ideas of the traditions and rituals, Dimple feels wholly American and fights her heritage tooth and nail.
Now she's teamed up with Rishi for the entire program, and she wants so desperately to create the winning app, so she can meet her role model and kick start her career. She wants to hate Rishi, but quickly discovers that he's actually a perfectly nice person and she can't deny that she at least wants to be friends with him. Of course, as the weeks pass and they spend most of their time together, Dimple grows closer to Rishi, and may be forced to acknowledge that her parents may have known what they were doing when they considered him as her future spouse.
I've seen this book raved about on a number of review websites since it came out and since I was in a bit of a reading slump and needed something sweet and cheerful, this book seemed to fit the bill. All those rave reviews were completely right, this is a delight of a book and a very sweet YA rom com in book form. While they're both from the same cultural background, initially at least it seems Dimple and Rishi couldn't be more different, both in interests and future plans and dreams. When Dimple allows herself to give Rishi a chance, she comes to see that it's quite nice to spend time with someone with the same kind of parental expectations and not needing to explain or give context to everything.
While Dimple feels entirely American and feels like her mother's expectations of her are stifling, her parents are actually very supportive of her wishes to be a web developer. She discovers that while Rishi is set to go to MIT after the summer, his true passion is art. He's a very talented artist and has developed his own comics character, but feels that pursuing a creative arts degree would be pointless as it's unlikely to lead to a long term career, and with his younger brother being an athlete, Rishi feels he needs to follow in their father's footsteps.
While Dimple and Rishi's parents are good friends and would love for their children to make a match of it, it's made very clear that none of the children are going to be disowned or shunned if they don't like one another. Rishi really has no interest in coding or programming and only goes to the summer program to get a chance to meet Dimple, and when he discovers that she has no idea who he is or that their parents are hoping they may fall for one another, he offers to leave. When he does stay and understands just how important winning the app development is to Dimple, he's very supportive and does all that he can to help her, including bolstering her confidence to help her during the more extroverted parts of the course.
Dimple and Rishi's parents aren't exactly in the book a lot, but when they do appear, you can tell how much they love their children. Rishi's younger brother becomes an important supporting character in the second half of the book, as does Dimple's party girl roommate Celia. I obviously have little personal experience with arranged matches, but the author, Sandhya Menon, is of Indian descent, and clearly wanted to make a romantic story between American teens with a different cultural background than a lot of their peers. In terms of representation, a brainy girl interested in tech and a sensitive boy with a passion for the arts are hopefully good things for other teens of South Asian descent.
This was a very cute and fun book and I'm already looking forward to Ms Menon's new book, which came out earlier this year.
Judging a book by its cover: The cover is cute and appropriate, with a sweet South Asian girl drinking iced coffee, as Dimple often does in the book. To fit even better, the girl should have been wearing thick-framed glasses as well (us bespectacled people would like to see our own on book covers on occasion too).
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.