For all the great reviews that this book’s ARC has gotten, I personally don’t think When Dimple Met Rishi lives up to the hype. That said, I don’t think this was a bad book per se. In fact, this book though lighthearted, deals with several societal issues.
She wept for her hardheadedness, and for a world that couldn’t just let her be both, a woman in love and a woman with a career, without flares of guilt and self-doubt seeping in and wreaking havoc. No one she knew had balanced both. There was either work or love. Wanting both felt like a huge ask; it felt like wishing for hot ice cream or a bitter sugar cube.
You can find the goodreads synopsis of the book here. But I’ll just do a little summary for you lazy folks out there.
When Dimple Met Rishi is a contemporary Young Adult novel about two teenagers (Dimple and Rishi) from traditional Indian families living in America. Dimple and Rishi’s parents have arranged for the both of them to be married to each other in future. However, while Rishi is a hopeless romantic who is fully on board this idea, Dimple is kept in the dark (because her parents know she’d never agree). When Dimple goes to a summer program at Stanford, Rishi joins to meet her, thinking that she was going there solely for the purpose of meeting him too. And then the story unfolds…
Dimple is an ‘unconventional’ American female in many ways:
- She is an Indian-American.
- She is interested in web development, a subject usually more popular among males than females
- She prioritises career over starting a family, isn’t interested at all in finding love, and doesn’t really care much about her looks. (Don’t shoot me, I KNOW these are just stereotypes and especially today these stereotypes are increasingly challenged, but that’s the point, I guess)
This allows the author to very subtly input more weighty topics including: the shame or lack of belonging that many second-generation migrants feel about their heritage; prejudice and disadvantages of women in STEM jobs, and how this causes women to feel that they have to choose between career and family. She didn’t go into lengthy paragraphs and discussions about these topics, but I felt that it was well-balanced considering the book was meant to carry more of a light-hearted tone anyway.
Sandhya Menon also did a good job in developing Dimple and Rishi’s characters. Throughout the book, I had a clear idea of Dimple and Rishi’s characters, even if they didn’t have predictable personalities.
What I didn’t like about the book was Dimple and Rishi’s relationship. Problem was, this took up majority of the book.
Menon’s writing was a little childish and underdeveloped, which was what made Dimple and Rishi’s relationship cloying. I’m not sure if that’s what her actual writing style is like, or if she was just trying too hard to write in the perspective of teenagers.
Her choice of words was slightly disturbing too. Throughout the book, she repeatedly mentioned how ‘the tip of Rishi’s ears turned pink’ or how Dimple’s cheeks ‘heated up’, and I felt like I was reading about prepubescent twelve year olds in a relationship. So I cringed internally each time they kissed, made out, or… basically whenever they did something that would otherwise have been considered sweet or romantic if the writing was better. It wasn’t even that Dimple & Rishi weren’t good for each other, because I felt that personality-wise, they did have a connection and complemented each other.
Another thing I find a little misleading was that Dimple and Rishi were supposed to be in a summer programme for app development, and Dimple is supposed to be crazy passionate about coding. Yet, only minimal parts of the story really involved this so-called programme, and there were absolutely zero scenes of them doing any coding. You could read maybe 4 chapters of the book and only get one or two sentences about the ‘progress’ of the application Dimple and Rishi were supposedly designing. And then one fine day, they’ve finished their prototype and the winners are announced. There was no buildup, no excitement. It was disappointing.
Still, despite its flaws, I think this was a worthy effort for a first-time author; I think this book deserves at least of 3 out of 5 stars.