Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Book Review: When Dimple Met Rishi

Last week my Booktube buddy Anita and I read When Dimple Me Rishi by Sandhya Menon, a YA contemporary romance novel that has been receiving A TON of hype on the bookish side of the internet. I had extremely high hopes for this book, as did Anita, and we were very excited to read this novel together. Unfortunately, this book really fell flat for the both of us and we both wound up feeling very disappointed. I wanted to talk in more detail about why it fell flat for me, because this book hasn't been getting a lot of criticism quite yet (SO MANY 5-star reviews for this book at the moment!) and I want folks out there to be able to make an informed decision about this book before rushing out to buy it.

***While this review doesn't exactly contain spoilers, it does contain a few details of the story that are not in the book's synopsis. If you do not want to know those details before reading, I would say skip this review for now. Otherwise, proceed reading!***

When Dimple Met Rishi is about two Indian-American teens who have just graduated high school and are in the summer before heading off to college. Dimple is a fierce lady who is heading to Stanford in the fall and determined to find her way into the tech field and code apps for a living, despite her parents hoping she will find an "IIH" (ideal Indian husband) and take on the role of a wife and mother as soon as possible. Rishi, who is bound for MIT at the end of the summer and values his connection to his family and culture very much. Dimple and Rishi's parents have been friends for years and think it would be a great idea to arrange a marriage between the two teens (unbeknownst to Dimple). When Dimple heads off to a summer camp where she will have the opportunity to build her own app, she meets Rishi, who is there to propose, even though Dimple has no idea who he is. The story then takes off from there.

As I was saying at the beginning of this review, I was super excited to get into this story! The premise seemed lovely. An own voices peak into what it is like to grow up Indian-American in the United States, a plot line dedicated to arranged marriage (something I am very unfamiliar with), AND badass ladies pursuing the STEM fields? SIGN ME UP. However, even though the above premise was what was sold to me, it wasn't what I got out of this book. Yeah, those things are all mentioned in this book, but they are no where near the focus and I was VERY disappointed about that.

This book has a strong start. I loved the beginning scenes of learning more about Dimple and Rishi's families, of Dimple and Rishi meeting for the first time, and the first few scenes of Insomnia Con (the tech camp where the majority of the book took place). Dimple and Rishi had a really cute friendship blossoming at the beginning of their time at the camp, and I was loving reading about them getting to know one another. After about page 150, however, the book slowed waaaaaaay down which was a total bummer. The beginning of the book was on such a great pace to be a fun summer contemporary with a unique setting and focus for its characters, but it soon became boring and I felt myself searching for the spark we had at the beginning of the book to come back and grip my attention once again.

Once Dimple and Rishi got over their initial awkwardness that all YA contemporary romances go through, the book really fizzled for me. Their relationship quickly became boring to me and was extremely predictable for two teens in love. This very well could be the fact that I'm not in the YA age group and perhaps I've outgrown reading about intense, teen first-love stories, but it just seemed super predictable and boring in my eyes. Dimple and Rishi both kind of lost what was interesting about them as individuals (Dimple with her interest in tech, and Rishi his love of art) and while they discussed both of these things a great deal, us seeing them be involved in their supposed beloved activities rarely happened throughout the book. Menon did a LOT of telling, but not a lot of showing, which is a shame because they both would totally have been interesting activities to get more of!

Which brings me to my next point: this book is set at a tech camp. One of our main characters is allegedly super passionate about developing apps and pursuing a career in tech. We have an entire plot line set up of a contest of who can develop the best app where the winner received the opportunity to get their app funded and developed. Ummmm... WHY DO WE NEVER SEE ANY OF THAT?! This, I think, is the biggest missed opportunity of the entire novel. This plot line would have been sooooo interesting to read about. You don't ever see characters, especially FEMALE characters, pursuing STEM in YA literature. You're telling me you're going to set an entire novel at a tech camp with a strong young female lead who wants to pursue a tech career attending said camp and then not show us her kicking ass at what she loves to do? Really? 

Can you imagine how many young readers would see Dimple kicking ass in tech development and then want to go out and pursue STEM just like her? Do you understand how inspiring that would have been? I think this is definitely what annoyed me the most about this book. There was so much potential in that one plot line (it was the setting for the majority of the novel for crying out loud!) and Sandhya Menon did nothing with it. I am super disappointed in that, and I can only hope that some author out there will pick up where Menon dropped the ball. :/ :/ :/

I really think that Menon also missed out on a really cool friendship between Celia and Dimple. I think it would have been really awesome for Dimple to have a solid friendship outside of her relationship with Rishi, and it also would have been great for Rishi to have a buddy he could talk to throughout the book. There were many bumps in Dimple and Rishi's young relationship, and having some sort of confidant would have been so wonderful for each of them to have. Celia was right there for Dimple to have a good friendship with, but instead their relationship seemed really judgmental and bitchy most of the time, and ultimately felt really fake and tense. I really wish that their relationship was stronger.

There were a lot of pieces that really didn't need to be in this story and would have provided more opportunity for a stronger plot if it wasn't there. One example that sticks right out is the talent show. Yep, there was a freaking talent show plot line in this book when they were already supposed to be competing to develop the best app. Why couldn't Menon have just focused on the app competition instead? It would have been far more interesting AND far more relevant to the story she was trying to tell. The talent show plot line really bothered me and I felt it was a total waste of the 100 or so pages they it was being discussed. While I think it was cool that Dimple and Rishi did a Bollywood dance for their entry as it was a cool glimpse into their culture, the entire plot line of the talent show could have been cut and the book would have been perfectly fine (probably better, if I'm being honest).

Of course, this book wasn't all bad. I really loved the fact that we had two Indian-American main characters which gave us a wonderful insight into what it is like to grow up as a first-generation citizen in an immigrant family. I loved that they discussed Indian-American culture at length as well as the pressures they face from their families, the inner-conflicts they have regarding pleasing their parents vs. pursuing their dreams, and the challenges they face as PoC and children of immigrants in the United States. Discussion of other cultures, races, and experiences in YA are SO IMPORTANT and I will always support that. 

And, as I said, the book had a really promising start in terms of the relationship Dimple and Rishi were developing. The first third of this book was really fun and rom-com-y which I had such a fun time reading! I really wish that vibe has stuck through the entirety of the book and was evident throughout Dimpe and Rishi's relationship.

However, with the amount of potential that this novel had to be GREAT, it really fell flat. Menon had so much she could have worked off of to make this an extremely impactful novel on top of it being a love story. This was intended to be a contemporary romance and it definitely was, but there was so much more that could have happened to enhance the story, and I'm ultimately just frustrated that Menon didn't take advantage of the opportunities that were very clearly in front of her.

Overall, I'm going to give this book...
3/5 Stars.

I'm hoping that Menon's next novel (which releases in 2018) will be an improvement from this one. So many people seem to ADORE this book and I just am not seeing why, so maybe there is something I missed with this book that I might pick up from her next one.

Have you read When Dimple Met Rishi? What did you think?
Let me know in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. I DNFed it about 100 pages in. I just couldnt. I expected more drama from Dimple and Rishi and struggle with Dimple that her parents had set her up.
    Instead, we hit the photo scavenger hunt and there's this super quick connection between the two of them. I just couldnt. I thought the book would focus more on the struggle of arranged marriages and maybe have the 2 end of together at the end of the book, but not right from the beginning.