Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 (4.5/5)
Plot: This book follows two protagonists, Dimple Shah and Rishi Patel. Dimple is the science minded daughter to two traditional Indian parents; she and her mother clash on everything, from Dimple’s appearance (she doesn’t wear makeup and keeps her hair short) to her desire to go to college for a career, not to find a husband. Rishi is the quintessential first-born son to Indian parents: he follows the rules, he does as his parents ask of him and what is good and right, even if it means giving up on his hopes and dreams. Their paths collide when Dimple’s parents miraculously allow her to go to a summer coding convention where high school graduates try to create a working app in six weeks before going to college. Unbeknownst to her, Rishi is also there, under the impression that both of them are aware this was a marriage setup by their parents. Rishi is confused and surprised when Dimple has no idea what he’s talking about when he tells her they’re to be married, and Dimple has the natural reaction to toss her coffee on him. When the two of them are paired up to work on the coding project together, it’s a battle of the wills and a clashing of old traditions and new as these two sharp young minds try to find their places in the world.
Review: I was so excited to read this book, I ate it up like delicious chocolate. My best friend of 10 years is also Indian and her parents moved to America when she was young, and her story reminded me of Dimple so much (not to mention they have the same last name). Or maybe it was Dimple who reminded me of my friend? Either way, they both want normal, American lives, and while they love their parents and respect traditions, they also want to be their own person. (I’ll stop talking about my friend now BTW.) Dimple was a delight to read, because she was focused on her goal to become a coder and her desire for it never wavered even in the face of diversity (her parents). Rishi was a little harder for me to connect with personally, but I thoroughly enjoyed his view of the world, and how much he cared for his parents and respected them. It’s so rare that a YA book involves parents, much less those who support and care for their children, so that was really great to read!
I learned so much about Indian tradition and day-to-day life by reading this. It was truly a learning experience for me, and one that was completely and utterly adorable to read. There is something truly special about an #ownvoices book, because the culture and multiple languages isn’t forced or just used as a stereotype: it comes from life experience, which makes it so much more engaging and education for someone outside.
As for the story itself, the pacing was a tad bit choppy and some of the cliches were very, very cliche, but all in all it was a tightly wound spool of thread that worked great for a light, contemporary read. I was hoping for a little more focus on the actual con/coding/intellectual part of the book (mostly because Dimple was also looking forward to doing that part and was determined not to get distracted from her goal of winning) but it got swept under the rug by the romance after the first quarter of the book. That’s why my rating was a little lower than 5 stars. I really did enjoy this for so many reasons though! The couple(s) talked things through instead of just accepting miscommunication and creating stupid fighting (my least favorite trope ever!) and the side characters were all fully fleshed out. The atmosphere reminded me of freshmen year of college, which was fun and nostalgic for me to read. Rishi’s storyline, the one separate from his entanglement with Dimple, was super interesting to me and I was happy that he was there for more than just a love interest role.