Author: Sandhya Menon
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, YA
Publication Date: 30th May 2017
Read: April 18th – May 10th
“It’s like you have this paintbrush, dipped in brilliant mauves and teals and golds, and you just totally redid my monochromatic life. I need you; I need your paintbrush.”
Thanks to Netgalley and Chapter 5 for sending me an e-ARC.
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.
There were so many things I loved about When Dimple Met Rishi, but I’m going to begin with the fact that this book is a gorgeous celebration of Indian culture. It’s own voices and Sandhya Menon does a wonderful job of challenging harmful stereotypes about Indian traditions embedded in western society. She explores the deeper complexities of arranged marriage, and shows us that it can be a beautiful companionship, rather than the forced partnering that westerners often (wrongly) think.
As someone who studied linguistics, I adored the use of language in the novel. The author intersperses English with Hindi when both Dimple and Rishi talk to their families and it was wonderful to see the two contrasted against each other because they’re such different languages (English is a Germanic language and Hindi is Indo-Aryan). Plus, I have a friend who speaks Hindi and it was great to see bi-lingual speakers like her being represented, and I got to learn new words I’d never come across before.
Another thing I loved was Dimple is a girl in STEM. She’s a coder interested in app-creation and also loves books, which is a combination I’ve not come across much in YA. She’s headstrong, driven, and doesn’t let anyone get in the way of her goals; I love reading about these types of women/girls regardless of their profession or interests, but it was really exciting to see a female character thriving in a field that has traditionally been dominated by men. Plus, Dimple is a massive feminist and challenges any (and all) ideals that she sees as pigeonholing women into traditional gender roles. Major love for Dimple.
As the other part of the duo, Rishi is such a lovable character. His inner thoughts are narrated so well and his unabashed, heartfelt awe for everything about Dimple is uplifting to read. His innocence and ability to empathise with others and encourage their ideas was a huge part of what made this book so enjoyable. He even took Dimple to a book-themed restaurant; basically the ultimate romantic checkmate.
Romance is at the heart of the story, and the author does a great job of expressing the innocence, confusion, and excitement that can come with burgeoning love. Especially for two teenagers trying to navigate summer school. Menon also sets up an electric social commentary on the expectation that women must choose between a career and a relationship. Dimple constantly questions whether dating Rishi will make her too ‘domestic’ and often worries she’ll end up letting her feelings take precedent over her ambitions.
Perhaps the thing that Menon does best, though, is humour. This book had me cackling out loud at points. Seriously, cackling. The sharp dialogue, unfortunate situations and sarcastic, wry sense of humour (Dimple, you gem) all combine to make this a really funny read.
My only criticism would be that the climactic sequence towards at the end of the novel felt a little too kitsch. Everything seemed to fall into place just too perfectly, and I found it unrealistic. But the intensity of emotion and honesty between Dimple and Rishi in the final two pages mostly made up for it.
When Dimple Met Rishi is like a book-shaped hug. If you’ve just finished a particularly emotionally-fraught book then this is the ideal next read. It’s sweet and cosy and I actually said ‘awwwh’ out loud as I finished the final page. That’s how cute it is. Dimple and Rishi are both so lovable and their relationship is incredibly heart-warming. This is a story that will effortlessly make you smile.