For fans Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins, To All the Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han, Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde, and Fan Girl by Rainbow Rowell.
Rating: 4/5 stars
When Dimple Met Rishi, by Sandhya Menon, tells the story of two Indian-American teenagers who fall in love despite trying to focus on their own personal aspirations. Dimple wants to go Sanford and pursue a career in web-development and is not a romantic in any way. She could care less about dating boys. Rishi is the hopeless romantic one, but intends to go MIT and pursue a practical trade and give up his secret hobby sketching comic characters. When both of their parents set them up during a summer program to Dimple’s surprise, she is absolutely certain she will be miserable if Rishi stays.
If things couldn’t get any worse, for the big summer coding competition Rishi chooses Dimple as her partner prior to them even meeting each other. Since it’s too late to switch partners, Dimple is stuck with Rishi for the the entire program so now they have to work with each other. Even though Dimple doesn’t believe in “kismet”, she finds that hanging with Rishi isn’t so bad after all. As they become more acquainted, Dimple pushes Rishi to pursue his real dreams while also surprising herself — maybe she can fall for a boy and still have a chance at her future. Sandhya Menon’s debut novel is the heart-warming, sweet, nerd meets nerd rom-com we all need.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room! Diversity. This book obviously has representation. I think it’s important to highlight the immigrant/first generation American dynamic of families in YA books. To many, this book may have been an enlightening read but for me it was actually familiar for two reasons. One of my mom’s good friends from long ago is Indian and her kids were born in America, so I already have some prior understanding of this culture. The other reason is because I’ve read a few books on assimilation before. You’ll often find this theme in adult/foreign fiction, such as The Namesake and The Kite Runner (both of which I recommend, by the way). I really think it’s wonderful to give voices to first generation Americans because their foreign culture is always going to clash with their American-ness. These issues aren’t necessarily specific to Indian-American culture, but culture can strongly dictate one’s life’s choices. This book is for anyone, so don’t let the “diversity” discourage you.
Another theme I liked was the romance. It started off less conventional than other love stories because Dimple doesn’t even know who Rishi is! She thinks he’s a stalker at first and it looks like Rishi’s efforts are a lost cause before their story begins. Not to mention, Dimple is so hot-headed when it comes to her goals, which makes her pretty hard to get at first. Interestingly enough, Dimple would rather avoid any sort of conflict with people as long as it doesn’t get in the way of her personal values. At some points in the book, I started to lose interest simple because, well, a love story is a love story no matter what and regardless of the beginning the formula is the same. But I have to say, I’m glad Rishi didn’t have to be a jerk for readers to like him or think he was cool. As far as writing style goes, I felt like Menon’s prose was strong, mature, and true to the characters. The story flowed naturally, but was also fun to read.
On the flip side, this wasn’t a page-turner for me. Sometimes there were gooey, hopeless romantic moments that made me want to roll my eyes. I was really intrigued at the idea of Dimple working towards a personal goal but all that changed when a guy comes along. I was pretty annoyed when shy, non-boy crazy Dimple decides to do something totally out of character that I can’t say because it’s kind of a spoiler. It’s totally okay for a character to surprise us by evolving, but there was nothing to help me understand this sudden change in personality —- bold and impulsive. This is to say, it was somewhat hard to grasp Dimple being a spontaneous introvert and Rishi a practical yet hopeless romantic extrovert sometimes. I also didn’t like the high school drama stuff. I know that to keep a story flowing, we need conflicts but I did not like the really cheesy, high school stuff. I can’t dock points off because technically they all just graduated. Like a few others, I would have liked to see less love story and more dream-chasing. It was still such a fun read and I would recommend it.
I almost gave this book 3.5 stars, but the ending saved it.
We need women of color in the technology field! That is all.
Rating: 4/5 stars