Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

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Details & Summary:

Title: When Dimple Met Rishi
Author: Sandhya Menon
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: May 30th 2017
Pages: 380

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.

My thoughts…

When Dimple Met Rishi is one of the most hyped books of this year. Before reading it myself, I’d read countless reviews and most of them were very, very positive. As a consequence, I had high expectations and I was very excited to read it. Sadly, I didn’t love it or like it as much as I thought I would. While Dimple and Rishi showcase a healthy, realistic relationship, which we need to see more of in YA, I had a few problems with the story outside the romance.

I’ll start with the good stuff. Dimple and Rishi are both great characters. Dimple knows what she wants. She’s passionate about coding and she’s going to study at Stanford and hopefully someday have a career like her idol, Jenny Lindt. She’s not interested in going to university for the sole purpose of finding her IIH (Ideal Indian Husband) like her parents want her to.

“She refused to be one of those girls who gave up on everything they’d been planning simply because a boy entered the picture.”

Then there’s Rishi, who values family, tradition, and culture. He’s more than okay with the idea of meeting a girl his parents chose for him. He’s also completely okay and confident about the person he is, which was my favourite thing about him.

“If no one says, ‘This is me, this is what I believe in, and this is why I’m different, and this is why that’s okay’, then what’s the point? What’s the point of living in this beautiful, great melting pot where everyone can dare to be anything they want to be?”

Of course, the trouble starts when they meet. Rishi was aware he was being set up with someone he hoped he would marry someday. Dimple was not; she was kind of tricked by her parents.

All in all, I think the arranged marriage theme was done well. I understood both sides and sympathised with both Dimple and Rishi. I was interested to see how they’d get along after this misunderstanding. And, for a while, I really did like their relationship. Though rushed (they are completely in love in just a few weeks), I liked how it was a healthy, realistic relationship where both sides respect and value each other. Very nice to see in YA.

What I didn’t like was how the romance completely took over the plot. Yeah, yeah, I know it’s a romance novel, but still. I respected Dimple so much for wanting a career and being passionate about coding and I felt like that all kind of disappeared into the background. Coding is supposed to be her number one passion, so I was very disappointed about how little time she seemed to spend on her project. It was mentioned a couple of times here and there, but I felt like she didn’t work on it that much. All of her time seemed to go toward dating Rishi, dealing with the Amberzombies (rich, mean kids? Really? Enoug with this overused trope already), and the talent show. Basically, the project kind of served as a background to their relationship, which is a real shame since I know how much hard work, time, and dedication it takes in real life.

I also wasn’t a big fan of how literally everything turned out okay in the end.

SPOILER ALERT….

Dimple and Rishi didn’t win but she did get a chance to meet Jenny Lindt who just so happens to love her idea so much she’s willing to invest in it. Dimple contacted Rishi’s role model / idol who also contacts him back. I mean, I really wish these kind of things happened in real life and I could get an answer from Elon Musk or J.K Rowling or anyone else who’s famous (and extremely busy!), but they rarely do.

The same thing goes for other plot points, such as Rishi’s relationship with his brother Ashish. They were all wrapped up rather fast and easy, which felt all a bit too convenionent to me and not very realistic.

While Dimple and Rishi deserves credit for showcasing a healthy, realistic teenage relationship and I loved reading about a different culture than mine, it’s a shame the romance dominated the plot as much as it did and their goals and interests were pushed to the background.

Rating

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[e-ARC] Review: Paintbrush by Hannah Bucchin

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Details & Summary:

Title: Paintbrush
Author: Hannah Bucchin
Publisher: Blaze Publishing
Release Date: July 11th 2017
Pages: 304

Mitchell Morrison and Josie Sedgwick have spent their whole lives at the Indian Paintbrush Community Village, a commune full of colorful characters tucked in the mountains of North Carolina, and they aren’t particularly close–at least, not anymore. Josie wishes she could spend all of her time at Paintbrush planting tomatoes, hiking the trails, or throwing giant communal birthday parties, while Mitchell can’t wait to escape the bizarre spiritual sharing and noisy community dinners. Luckily for both of them, high school graduation is just around the corner.
But when Mitchell’s mother makes a scandalous announcement that rocks the close-knit Paintbrush community, and Josie’s younger sister starts to make some dangerously bad decisions, the two find themselves leaning on each other for support – and looking at each other in a whole new light. Their childhood friendship blossoms in to something more as they deal with their insane families, but as graduation approaches, so does life in the real world, forcing Josie and Mitchell to figure out what, exactly, their relationship is – and if it can survive their very different plans for the future.

My thoughts…

**Thank you to Blaze publishing, who provided me with an e-ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

I had high expectations for this book, mainly because it features one of my favourite romance tropes (friends to lovers). Aside from the romance aspect, it also promised a “commune full of colorful characters tucked in the mountains of North Carolina”. I was excited to read it, but, unfortunately, Paintbrush didn’t deliver. While I enjoyed some aspects, they didn’t make up for one-dimensional characters and a lack of originality.

For me, the characters were the biggest issue. When writing a book with a dual POV, it’s important to develop your characters and give them a unique voice so readers immediately know which character is speaking. This wasn’t the case in Paintbrush. Josie and Mitchell, the POV characters, sound almost exactly alike. I also found that they have almost identical reactions to the events, which makes it even harder to distinguish them from one another.

Nor were they particularly interesting. Josie is the weird, quirky female character who enjoys planting tomatoes, spending time outdoors, and helping out the community. Mitchell is the golden boy every (mean) girl swoons over but who’s not interested in anyone because they’re all the same and he’s looking for someone “different”. And, surprise, surprise: Josie is the one who’s “different”.

Many people would probably say this isn’t a big deal, but, for me, it’s not okay to imply that one type of girl (or person) is “better” than the other. For example, not enjoying parties and preferring to read doesn’t make you a better person than someone who does enjoy going to a party. Unfortunately, that’s what’s implied in Paintbrush. There was a lot of judging coming from the main characters in general and I would be lying if I said it didn’t bother me. Especially lines like these:

“Mitchell leans over and plucks an apple out of K-girl’s hand, dangling the apple high above her head. Of course she’s eating an apple – just an apple – for lunch. She squeals and jumps for the apple, hands outstretched, bumping into Mitchell and laughing.”

Josie (and, as such, the author) is basically implying that this girl is nothing more than a dumb, skinny girl who doesn’t eat and desperately dangles herself in front of the golden boy at school.

In general, Bucchin takes the easy way out and completely skimps out on character development. As a result, Paintbrush features mostly one-dimensional and stereotypical characters: hippies, a surfer dude from California, mean girls, a sister who rebels and turns into a goth, best friends who’re overly excited all the time and serve as comic relief …

The author doesn’t give them extra layers. Basically, what you see is what you get. Interestingly enough, she seems to be aware of the stereotypes. This is what happens when someone calls Josie “quirky”.

[Mitchell]

“Quirky is such a cop-out. Like, ‘everyone else thought this girl was just a big weirdo, but then I came along and found her.’ Like you’re the first guy to ever notice her. She’s a person, not a rare species or a dinosaur bone or something. It’s not like you made some kind of discovery.”

All I’m going to say is that I wish Bucchin had kept these lines in mind while she created her other characters.

Plot-wise, Paintbrush does what you expect it to do. There are no big surprises or plot twists you don’t see coming and it’s all fairly predictable, but I didn’t mind so much. Many contemporary YA romances follow the same course, which is fine if you’re looking for an easy, quick read.

While I had a lot of issues with this book, it also has some good elements. I particularly enjoyed the setting. Bucchin does a great job at describing the scenery in such a way that you wish you could visit these places and experience it yourself. The Paintbrush community was also a highlight for me. I hadn’t read anything like it before (in my country, communities don’t exist) and I’m not sure if such a community is “common” in the US, but it was nice to read about a different way of living.

Despite its faults, I did enjoy the romance between Josie and Mitchell. Bucching got the pacing right. She didn’t drag out their romance by throwing hundreds of obstacles in their way, but she also didn’t rush it. Overall, I thought the way Mitchell and Josie transitioned from friends to lovers was fairly realistic.

“We’re a mess, aren’t we?” He grins at me.
I can’t help it—I lean into him, pressing my shoulder into his, wanting to feel his warmth and his soft sweatshirt, wanting to be a part of that smile.
I shrug. “All the best people are messy.”

Paintbrush had a lot of potential to be an original and captivating YA romance. The setting and romance are there, but, ultimately, the characters let the story down. If Bucchin had taken the time to truly develop her characters, stay away from placing judgment, and added more (racial) diversity to her story, this book could’ve been a favourite instead of a disappointment.

Rating

My all-time favourite fictional couples

In honour of Valentine’s Day, I thought I would dedicate this blog post to my all time favourite fictional couples. I’d planned on giving you my top three, but I quickly realized there was no way I’d be able to narrow it down to three.

So, in light of the awards season, l decided to host the “Greatest Fictional Couple Awards” which I’ve divided into four categories.

Before I get down to business, I want to point out that I didn’t look at release dates and didn’t restrict myself to a specific period in time. These are simply (some of my) favourite pairings of all time, across different media.

And now, without further ado, let’s get started.

1. YA fiction

Miles & Alaska – Looking for Alaska

Miles “Pudge” Halter goes to Culver Creek to “seek a great perhaps”. He befriends The Colonel, Takumi, Lara, and Alaska of course. Miles falls for her almost instantly but she’s the girl he can’t have.

“I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was hurricane.”

She’s a mystery, an enigma, and he spends much of the book idolising her. But, at the end, due to events I won’t spoil, he comes to the conclusion that he misimagined her.

Eleanor & Park – Eleanor & Park

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Eleanor & Park is in many ways an important book. It deals with important topics such as bullying, abuse, and identity struggles, but also gets credit for its diverse cast of characters. Park is American-Korean while Eleanor is implied to be a “fat”. Neither of them can stand the other at first, but throughout the book, they find comfort in each other’s company and became one of my favourite YA couples. Their story will remind anyone what’s it like to fall in love for the first time and to do so deeply and irreversibly. And let’s not talk about the ending, alright?

Henry & Diego – We Are the Ants

Henry is a smart, funny, nihilistic teenage boy faced with having to decide the world’s fate while he tries to deal with complicated family relationships, friendships, grief, love, and bullying.

Henry is lost and alone and it doesn’t get much better for him until Diego transfers to his school and moves into his life. I don’t want to say Diego “saved him”, which wouldn’t be accurate and doesn’t give any credit to Henry himself, but Diego helped him to see that life can be beautiful and worth living. That’s one of the most special things you can do for another person, no?

2. Non-YA fiction

Elizabeth & Mr Darcy – Pride & Prejudice

Need I say more? They are one of the most iconic couples of all time, but they certainly didn’t start out that way. Mr Darcy was a bit of a pompous jerk and Elizabeth too quick to judge his character, but together they learned to see past their mistakes and come together in a beautiful way.

Cecilia & Robbie – Atonement

This is the most heartbreaking love story I’ve ever read (or seen*). Yes, really.

The promise of this couple is teased in the first part of the film, only to be ripped away when they’re torn apart by a lie constructed by Cecilia’s jealous younger sister, Briony. Robbie is the hardest hit since Briony’s deception leads to his imprisonment, but hope rises when Cecilia and Robbie cross paths during World War II.

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*If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I highly, highly recommend you to do so. Keira Knightley and James McAvoy are stunning, but so are Saoirse Ronan and Romola Garai as Briony. The costumes are on point (Google Keira’s icnonic green dress!), the cinematography is stunning, and the script follows the book to a tee. It perfectly captures the feel of the book, which many film adaptations struggle with.

Scarlett ‘O Hara & Rhett Butler – Gone with the Wind

Easily one of the most epic love stories. It’s also refreshing to have two characters that aren’t “likeable” (especially Scarlett for most of the book) and have plenty of faults. Despite those flaws and faults, there’s a connection between them that can’t be denied. This couple gets bonus points for giving us lines that will be remembered forever.

“You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how.”

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

3. Movies

Sebastian & Mia – La La Land

Alright, I’ll admit that this nominee might be influenced by my love for La La Land.

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I’ve never been a musical fan, but I fell in love with this movie after the first five minutes. Much of that has to do with Ryan Gosling & Emma Stone’s perfect chemistry. You’re rooting for them from the start, you laugh when they laugh, and you inevitably cry when the movie ends and the credits roll.

Alternative reality. That’s all I’m going to say.

People who’ve seen the movie will understand what I’m talking about.

Jack & Rose – Titanic

Need I say more?

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I don’t think so.

Noah & Allie – The Notebook

Technically, this could’ve fit into one of the previous categories since it’s an adaptation, but I didn’t love Noah & Allie until I saw the movie. Again, this has much to do with the actors who did a brilliant job portraying the characters. (And, again, Ryan Gosling is part of it. Is he the ultimate romance star or what?)

4. TV shows

Seth & Summer – The OC

This is for all the ‘90 kids. Who doesn’t want a Seth? Seriously. He’s awkward, he’s a bit of a geek, but he’s also smart, caring, and incredibly kind. And then there’s Summer. He adores her but she doesn’t acknowledge his existence until later. Both of them evolve as characters and work together beautifully as a couple.

Pacey & Joey – Dawson’s Creek

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Can you tell I have a thing for underdogs? First Seth, now Pacey. I was never a Dawson fan, and it didn’t help his case that Pacey – his rival for Joey’s love – was being played by Joshua Jackson. I mean, c’mon. How can you resist him?

But, seriously, I always thought Pacey understood Joey better than Dawson ever did. She could truly be herself around him and she never had to live up to the unbearable expectations that came with being someone’s soul mate.

Jon Snow & Igrid – Game of Thrones

Poor Jon. That is all.

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And the winners are… 

  • Eleanor & Park (Eleanor & Park)
  • Cecilia & Robbie (Atonement)
  • Jack & Rose (Titanic)
  • Pacey & Joey (Dawson’s Creek)

Do you agree? Who would you have nomintated instead? What are some of your favourite couples?