So here’s something probably everyone knows about me by now. I do not really like het romance, especially YA het romance. Everything is so cringe-worthy and stereotypical and they use the same 5 tropes over and over again and they’re always white and pretty, except the girl is definitely ordinary looking because she looks in the mirror and says so about a dozen times before the book is over.
But! Something I will always give a chance is a diverse YA romance. Which is why I liked Everything, Everything and The Upside of Unrequited. Because when you step outside the mold, the tropes don’t fit into it anymore. And that only proves beneficial to these authors and books. I also really, consciously try my best to read not only sexually diverse novels, but racially diverse as well, and as sad as it is, there aren’t a lot of LGBTQ books that feature main characters of color. So I turn to the hets.
My boss at the library hyped this book to me for like, months before it was released, and I was so excited I ran out to Barnes and Noble literally the day it came out, and finished it in three days. Which is fast for me, though I’m aware it’s a snail pace for a lot of other book bloggers. I know she was genuinely worried she’d over-hyped it and I would end up liking it less than anticipated, but au contraire. Reading it made me feel so happy and bright and I’m so glad I did!
When Dimple Met Rishi is about a girl named Dimple and a boy named Rishi (duh). Dimple is extremely enthusiastic about coding and computers, and is ecstatic when she’s accepted into Stanford. Rishi (that’s Rih-shee, not Ree-shee) is one hundred percent devoted to his Indian culture, from traditional garb to arranged marriage. Dimple’s parents, concerned that her ambition will prevent her from finding a husband and giving them grandbabies, contact Rishi’s parents and arrange a relationship for the two of them. Or, what was supposed to be a relationship. The thing is, Rishi knows all about it, and Dimple doesn’t have a clue. So when Rishi shows up at the web-developers-in-training camp Dimple persuaded her parents into letting her spend her summer at, and introduces himself joyously as her future husband, she throws her coffee in his face and books it. And things only get better from there.
The first thing I gotta talk about, of course, is the characters. This book was a smorgasbord of amazing characters. Dimple, in my opinion, was the best of them all: a smart, savvy young woman who knows exactly what she wants. She’s truly a breath of fresh air for female romance protagonists; she doesn’t fall head over heels, she puts her career first, she’s realistic about the blossoming relationship. Meanwhile Rishi takes the part of the helpless romantic, loving every part of the traditional Indian marriage ideals and thinking that nothing sounds more wonderful. More than once, Dimple has to reign him in and remind him she has no intention of actually marrying him, at least, not for a long time. And for the most part, he’s totally okay with that.
Side and minor characters are delightfully well-developed, as well. Rishi’s younger brother Ashish, and Dimple’s roommate at camp, Celia, are both very real and flawed themselves, though not unlikeable at all. At least, not to me. Celia’s personal journey through the summer really touched me, as someone who also was a bit too late to realize the people I was friends with when I was younger weren’t so great after all.
Another thing I really enjoyed while reading this is how much I learned about Indian culture, specifically Indian-American culture. I kept my computer close by while reading to google clothing items and foods mentioned, and learned some great stuff. I told myself going into it that I wouldn’t let myself skim over a word I didn’t know and just let my own brain make something up regarding what it was, and I’m so glad for that. It was the clothing that particularly interested me, especially since Dimple’s mother was so adamant about Dimple literally wearing her Indian culture on her sleeve. I love reading fiction books that help me learn new things in the process.
It was also really informative to see the culture from both sides; from Dimple’s, who would rather separate herself from it and live her life detached from her parents’ views; and then there’s Rishi, obsessed with Indian culture, especially since his brother is more like Dimple in that regard. I want more mainstream YA like this, that doesn’t just show a culture, but immersion of the culture in day to day American life and how it’s different for different members of the culture itself.
THIS NEXT SECTION HAS SPOILERS! READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!
I spent the entire last 2/3 of the book terrified about the ending, certain for a moment that it would end with Dimple giving up Stanford and compromising with going to school with Rishi. I was all ready to be angry, ready to yell at my boss for making me read this, ready to go on the internet and yell about it.
But that’s not what happened.
Instead, Rishi was the one who not only compromised, but followed his heart, which just so happened to line up with following Dimple. I read so few het romances where the dude is the one that discovers a magic thing about himself and his talents, thanks to his love interest, and the result was beautiful and powerful. The fact that they helped each other meet their idols, as well, was absolutely amazing and heartwarming. Reminds me of Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmas, where Minnie bought him a case for his harmonica, at the same time Mickey sold his harmonica to buy her a present. No? Doesn’t translate? Fine.
Either way, I’ve been getting really surprised by het romances lately. Maybe cause people keep recommending me the right diverse things! After all, ‘heterosexual’ and ‘diverse’ aren’t opposites; there are other ways to be diverse, and I think when you hear the word ‘diversity’ in regards to YA, cultural and racial diversity tends to get overlooked.
But not this time! And it was a fantastic reading experience.
See you tomorrow for Top 5 Wednesday!