When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon.
Simon Pulse, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2017.
YA romance, 378 pages.
Not yet leveled.
NOTE: This is a work of fiction although I’m not reviewing it on Fiction Friday.
Dimple is shocked when her parents are willing to pay for her to attend a special summer program for web developers – she could have sworn her mother didn’t understand that programming, not marriage, is her life passion. Rishi doesn’t mind attending the same camp – it’s not much of a detour for the chance to meet his future wife early – and he knows his family has found his perfect lifelong partner.
This book (and the other I preordered) arrived! Family obligations held me until 9 p.m., but then I was able to read and read. Because of the time constraints of the #AsianLitBingo challenge, this review is after only one reading, and I’m backdating it to post on the 30th, when I read this. If other things jump out at me, I’ll edit this post.
Edited to Add: Actually, Sinead’s review covers what I missed – some ableism, a hypocritical statement, the humor and inclusion of Hindi, etc.
Having read the first three chapters in preview, I knew Manon had a good writing style and the story was intriguing. In the full novel, Manon was able to keep the story interesting, even humorous. Aspects of the story that kept me guessing up until the end.
The story is told in alternating viewpoints by Dimple and Rishi, with Dimple’s viewpoint (like her personality) being slightly dominant. I often dislike alternating viewpoints. In this particular book, some chapters are entirely in the viewpoint of one character, while others switch during the middle of a chapter or even a scene. A character’s name proceeded each section of the text. I understand why the book was written this way, but it still felt jarring in a few places when the viewpoint changed rapidly. The two main characters have a lot in common despite their dissimilarities, so the labeling was helpful.
Like most romances, the end of the book also neatly wraps up loose ends. Many of these made sense to address, but wished a few were left open, particularly Ashish – as someone (Sinead?) mentioned, he should get his own book. This was to be expected within the genre though.
On page 151, we find out a hero (not a main character but a role model) is deaf! He has a cochlear implant and during the dialogue another character “made sure to enunciate and face Leo the entire time.” and there’s a little more (but spoilers). While Leo is not Deaf, having a deaf character represented was unexpected and powerful.
Another character was bisexual – not presented as an issue but simply mentioned in passing. This character was somewhat promiscuous, a trope I watch for nowadays, but not necessarily more so than several straight characters. There was a point where it seemed the character might be exploited, but thankfully the story went in a different direction.
When I reviewed On the Edge of Gone, I commented about wishing effortless diversity was a part of all YA novels. This book is nowhere near the inclusion On the Edge of Gone achieved, but also has a much smaller scope and cast of characters. I appreciated seeing even more diversity beyond the titular characters.
Family plays a strong role in this book, as does the balance between modern and traditional. While the romance is a major theme and drive behind this book, the story arc focuses on Dimple’s quest to win the programming contest and meet her hero. Minor characters had their own stories as well. All of the characters felt like real people to me. Even when I disagreed with a character’s choices, they felt appropriate to the character and we got a sense of everyone’s personality.
This was the best romance I’ve read in a long time. The story drew me back to dating Husband. The time frame was only a few months, but this wasn’t insta-love. The Sun is Also a Star had similar potential, left unfulfilled because of the tight time frame – which did allow for greater tension.
Class and wealth are issues in the book that at times smooth paths and at other points raise roadblocks. It was explicitly stated that a true gentleman (or lady) treats everyone with respect no matter their income or race.
There are moments when characters get physical, including intercourse. Arousal occurs, underage characters consider drinking alcohol, and drugs may be at a gathering. Swears are present, but are used sparingly and with thought, serving a narrative purpose. The context (teens living in a college dorm) lends itself to some adult decisions, which are generally handled with consideration.
If you’re in a middle school library, read it for yourself first and see if it fits the context of your student body. However, if you’re thinking about it for teens, this is comparable to most John Green novels. If you’re an adult who likes romances and doesn’t mind coming-of-age stories, this book is worth a look. This would make a great title for book group discussion.
Recommended. I will be rereading.