By Michelle Nathan
Hi friends! This month I am reviewing WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI, a tale of romance, comedy and some carefully orchestrated destiny centring around two young, first generation Indian-Americans whose parents have plotted an arranged set up between the two. But, in the vein of all classic rom-coms, only one of them knows about the arrangement, while the other is initially completely oblivious. Miscommunication, hijinks and all of the cutesy rom-com tropes in the world are afoot in this charming story about young love, chasing your dreams and following your heart. Hope you enjoy!
Dimple Shah goes against the grain in her family. She has big dreams of becoming a web developer and escaping from her loving but overprotective parents; in particular her mother, who’s sole focus is ensuring that her daughter knows the ‘correct’ way to dress and apply kaajal (eyeliner) in order to attract the IID (Ideal Indian Husband). But Dimple doesn’t care about any of that. She has bigger fish to fry, including convincing her parents to let her go to the Insomnia Con summer web development programme in San Francisco where the winner gets to meet her hero; web developer Jenny Lindt – and the rest of her life can finally begin.
Rishi Patel couldn’t be more different. The perfect first born son; traditional to a fault, and a hopeless romantic who loves hearing stories about his parent’s loving and successful arranged marriage. So when his parents suggest introducing him to the daughter of their old friends, the Shah family, a girl they believe could be his potential future wife, he’s over the moon. Is this the start of his perfect love story, just like his parents?
Well, not if Dimple has anything to do with it.
These two young souls collide at the six week long summer programme at SFSU, but will their dreams take flight and soar or crash and burn before they even get started?
- Freeze, this is a set-up! – Something that I loved about this book was how Menon talks about and normalises arranged marriage, which is often viewed in Western society as being strange or ‘backwards’. Nowadays, it’s less ‘meet your future spouse on your wedding day,’ and more like how Menon has depicted in the novel; parents suggesting potential partners to their kids, and letting them get on with it from there. If they don’t click, that’s cool, plenty more fish in the sea. It’s also really heartwarming reading a fun book about young brown kids having fun without it being an ‘issues’ book which soley focuses on overcoming oppressive structures and people. Sandhya Menon said it best when she said “Brown teens need to see themselves falling in love, making mistakes, dabbling in art, and being happy.”
- This is what dreams are made of – Although Dimple and Rishi’s relationship is the driving force of the novel, Menon also delves into their own personal hopes and dreams for their future – from Dimple’s passion for coding and web development to Rishi’s love of art and comics. This not only allows the reader to really get to know each of them individually, fleshing them out into three-dimensional characters as opposed to flimsy props used to facilitate a romantic storyline, but also proves (and rightly so!) that their relationship isn’t, and shouldn’t be, all that defines them. Bravo!
Wrap it Up
Despite not being a huge fan of the genre, I really enjoyed this book – it’s a quick read that you can breeze through in a day or two, completely falling for these two lovable characters while they fall for each other (I mean I’d say spoiler alert, but you know what’s coming with this kind of book!) It wasn’t perfect by any means, with some sections reading more like a first draft than the finished product, in that there was a cute idea or premise which never comes to fruition because it didn’t feel fully developed enough, but the two leads more than make up for it. My only other note would be that I would have liked to have seen more of both of their parents, just to see how their upbringing has impacted Dimple and Rishi’s views on the world, and why they each reacted so differently to very similar upbringings. (I know that this wasn’t meant to be the focus of the novel, but still, it would have been nice!)
That being said, if you’re in the market for a light, fun summer read then I would definitely recommend you add it to the list. And as a bonus, it’s a NYT best-selling Own Voices novel with two brown teenage protagonists at the centre of it all – something of a novelty in the YA fiction world.
Rating – 4 stars **** – 3.5 in the grand scheme of books, but a solid 4 for the YA rom-com genre. Cute and cheesy in all the right ways, with an final climatic scene that will leave you with all the heart-eye emoji feels…!