WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI by Sandhya Menon
Young Adult or YA books, they are among the hottest genres in publishing. What’s a YA book anyway. According to the American Library Association YA books are aimed at ages 12-18. That seems like a rather wide age spread. What are the key ingredients? A teenage protagonist (or more), going through a life stage (love, loss, disease, danger) usually for the first time.
Have there always been YA books or is this a genre that was created solely by marketers? For those of us of a certain age. Tom Sawyer, Little Women, The Outsiders, Hello God It’s Me Margaret, heck even Pride and Prejudice, would qualify as YA.
But we’ve seen an explosion in the YA category in the last couple of decades covering everything from dystopian fiction, race, cancer, sex, suicide, death, culture and, of course, romance.
One thing we do know is that young adults are not the only people who read YA books, older adults too. If you haven’t read anything by John Green, you should. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins has been one of the most successful YA series of recent years, and Twilight has certainly found an audience over the age of 18.
An increasing call for diversity in book publishing has also led to books deal with young people from diverse backgrounds and culture. I’ve already featured one of the most successful YA books of the year, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas that deals with the painful topic of the police shootings of young unarmed black men.
When Dimple Met Rishi, the debut novel by author Sandhya Menon, falls squarely into the category of madcap rom com, but features first generation Indian Americans, eighteen year olds Dimple Shah and Rishi Patel. In interviews Menon has said that the original seed of the idea was from her editor who was interested in a story about an arranged marriage where one of the protagonists is totally against the idea.
What she’s written is a delightfully charming and fun book that deals with not just the challenges of first love, but also about identity and belonging. While it’s a book that South Asians will “get” right away, it has universal lessons for anyone from a non-majority community trying to figure out who they are. Of course anyone with an overbearing mom, or relatives who are always wondering when you are going to settle down will identify with this book too.
Dimple is a smart 18 year-old who has just graduated from high school and is getting ready to attend Stanford in the fall. She is passionate about coding and is excited to go to college and focus on her work, looking forward to her independence and moving away from her hovering mother who seems pre-occupied with how her daughter dresses and confused as to why she won’t wear makeup. Her mother is thrilled about Stanford too, but apparently mostly because it ups Dimple’s chances of finding an I.I.H – an Ideal Indian Husband.
Dimple manages to persuade her parents to send her to a summer camp on web development to help her prep for college. Little does she know that her parents agree because the son of a family acquaintance, Rishi, a potential I.I.H is attending too and the idea is that the kids get acquainted (and eventually marry?).
There are crossed wires, Rishi doesn’t know that Dimple doesn’t know that their parents had kind of planned it. Madcap mayhem ensues when the two first meet and the whole plan seems doomed.
But, this is a rom-com and we know how those go. Boy meets girl. Girls rebuffs boy. Boy is confused. Girl sees boy is not really that bad. Friendship blossoms despite the odds, etc. etc.
Even knowing that formula I found the book utterly endearing. The teens we meet at this camp cover the range of teens we expect to meet in such an environment and thus will have appeal to the universal reader.
Menon is most effective when her teen characters are working through who they are and how they can embrace that whether the theme is friendship, peer pressure, following your muse, resisting parental pressure, or what it means to be a first. In the case of Rishi and Dimple that means examining their status as first generation Indians and how that pulls each of them in different directions and what they learn from each other.
These last few weeks of the year are when many of us like to wind down and clear our minds of the clutter of our lives. For me, that means watching one of my favorite rom-coms, Love Actually, but it also means getting lost in some fun books too. For anyone looking for escape and the trials and triumphs of young love, put this book on your pile too.
BEFORE YOU READ
Length: 378 pages
Genre: Rom-Com, Fiction
Themes: dating, identity, parents, being a teenager, arranged marriages
Commitment: fun, endearing, charming, you'll race through this book