Title: When Dimple Met Rishi
Author: Sandhya Menon
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pub Date: May 30, 2017
Genre(s): YA, Contemporary, Romance
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Synopsis from Goodreads:
Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?
Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.
The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?
Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.
“She refused to be one of those girls who gave up on everything they’d been planning simply because a boy entered the picture.”
Sigh. The YA community needed this book. I know there are a few of you who are probably scoffing at this, but I’m trying to make a point here. Let me clarify: this book is not groundbreaking, it does not shatter all societal norms, and it really doesn’t even stray from the typical contemporary storyline… but—and that is a huge but—it is realistic and relatable. Anyone who says otherwise probably hasn’t had the luxury of being born into a family of immigrants. So take a seat. This book wasn’t for you, and that’s okay.
There are so many books out there that can probably cater to what you understand, but for people like me, this was revolutionary. I felt like I actually saw myself in a book for once. The funny thing is, I’m not even Indian. I am Iranian/Kurdish, born and raised in Canada, and that is the only life I’ve ever known. I can’t speak on behalf of the Indian community and it is their right to voice their opinions on the accuracy of representation in this book, but I can tell you my experience as a child born to immigrant parents.
I can only speak for myself but I really appreciated this book. I strongly related to the theme of tradition vs. progression. Rishi is the eldest son in a fairly traditional family. His parents expect him to do the right things: study engineering, meet and marry a girl they approve of, and live happily ever after. It’s not so terrible. He craves stability and likes upholding tradition, but he does struggle a bit between sustaining his family’s values and pursuing a career he is really passionate about. He doesn’t want to let anyone down and I really admire him for that.
Another great thing about Rishi is that he is not ashamed of his culture. He doesn’t try to hide his heritage or act like his family’s money/status in America completely dissolves him of any traditional ideologies. He’s unabashedly himself and even tries to educate other people about his race and religion. And when the opportunity arises, he certainly puts some rude people in their place. You tell ’em, Rishi! Correct them when they say your name wrong.
It’s important to mention Rishi’s cultural ownership (for lack of a better word) because it took me a long time to admit to other people that I was more than just Canadian. They’d say, “But where are you really from?” And I’d proudly say, “Right here. I was born in Canada,” as if that made me a better person. Then they’d ask where my parents are from and respond, “Oh, that makes more sense.” And for some reason, this statement always made me curl in on myself. I’m ashamed to say it now… but I was ashamed of where my parents were from. I felt like I needed to justify our entire race, our entire identities. Which is f*cking ridiculous because I was literally 7. Needless to say, my identity crisis began at a young age but I’ve been constantly evolving and learning ever since. Don’t even get me started on how ignorant I was. I’ve come a long way, I promise.
Now let’s talk about Dimple. Feisty, intelligent, stubborn, Dimple. Dimple’s parents (mainly her mother) also expect her to lead a certain life. In her mother’s eyes, college is just a stepping stone towards her inevitable marriage to an “Ideal Indian Husband”. I can’t relate to this as much because education is the #1 priority in my family, but I could really resonate with Dimple’s need to study something her parents didn’t really understand. She knows what she wants to study, what kind of career she wants, and she’s going after it. That is very cool of her. But for some odd reason I can’t comprehend, a bunch of reviewers hate her character. Why? Because she didn’t completely fall in love with a stranger who practically confessed his undying love for her? Because she didn’t embrace her family’s deception with open arms? Because she has a hard time properly conveying her emotions? Because she’s always felt out of place and unwelcome? Because she wants to do something that no one thinks she can (or should) do?
Why would you hate someone for those things?
It was absolutely refreshing to see a YA protagonist who didn’t bend over for anyone who asked. In my opinion, her character isn’t really lovable but she is certainly likable and admirable in other respects. She grows on you, flaws and all… Just. Like. Real. People. Do. It’s interesting to see all the readers who were so excited for this diverse book, only to be annoyed by its diverse characters. LOL. Like, people are not perfect? What did you expect? I don’t know. Anyways, that’s a rant for another time.
In conclusion, When Dimple Met Rishi is a solid 4-star read. The side characters are a bit shallow and underdeveloped but the pros far outweigh the cons. Dimple and Rishi are cute as heck. Yes, the teenage hormones were a bit much for me at times but it led to self-discovery and personal growth for more than one character, and that is never a bad thing.
I’ll just be sitting here, waiting for some more books like this to be written so they won’t be placed on a pedestal of Diversity, and can be appreciated just like any typical book should be.