Oh Goodreads, how did I find new books and authors before you came along? Seriously, I cannot remember how I did that before. Though to be fair, I was in graduate school for forever before I started this blog, so what I read was often dictated to me by my professors, leaving little time to read anything for fun. But I digress...today's selection is When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. I am all for discovering new YA authors. I am also all for books with diverse voices that involve cultures I am not all that familiar with. This book allowed for both, so this is going to be fun.
The Situation: Dimple Shah knows exactly what she wants in life, and it happens to be the direct opposite of what her mother wants. Dimple's mother would love it if her daughter were more interested in make-up, dressing nice, and finding the "Ideal Indian Husband." But Dimple is focused on starting at Stanford in the fall, and attending Insomnia Con this summer, where she will get to compete against others while creating an app, with the winner getting a chance to make the app available to the public. It is at Insomnia Con where she will meet Rishi Patel, in incredibly practical and dutiful boy who loves the idea of an arranged marriage, and wants to honor his parents by becoming a successful corporate business man, getting married, and having a family. He loves the idea so much that he agreed to attend Insomnia Con, even though he has no interest in coding or web development. He knows it is there that he will meet Dimple, as both his parents and her parents have already arranged the marriage.
The Problem: Everyone is pleased with this plan...well, everyone except Dimple, who did not even know about it until Rishi approached her outside of a Starbucks. Needless to say, that first meeting did not go well, and while Dimple is incredibly angry with her parents, Rishi is the one who incurs her wrath. And if things were not awkward enough, the two of them have been made partners for the entire six weeks of Insomnia Con. Eventually, the pair will get to know each other enough to relax into an easy relationship. But Insomnia Con is still a competition, and one that is incredibly important to Dimple. Together, they must endure encroaching family, snobby competitors, and flaky roommates. It is enough to make Dimple rethink her future, which just a few weeks ago was one thing she was absolutely sure of. Even Rishi begins to wonder if the life he mapped out for himself is truly what he wants.
Genre, Themes, History: This is a young adult novel set in and around San Francisco, California. The program that Dimple and Rishi attend, Insomnia Con, takes place on the San Francisco State University campus, where the participants stay for six weeks in the student dorms and work on their own idea for an app. The winning pair will get the chance to develop their app for the market, and work with one of Dimple's idols. Dimple is at Insomnia Con because it is important to her and she wants to win. Rishi is at Insomnia Con because he wanted to meet Dimple, whom he solidly believes is his future wife. Tradition and history are important to both the Shahs and the Patels, but while Rishi embraces these things, Dimple could not care less, and wants nothing more than to be allowed to live her own life and follow her own dreams, without her mother's interference. It is these opposing viewpoints that will pit Dimple and Rishi against each other, and Dimple against her parents. It does not help that some of the other Insomnia Con participants are less than friendly, and have no problem showing how superior they believe themselves to be. It becomes a more complex issue beyond Dimple not wanting her only purpose in life to be finding a husband. And Insomnia Con becomes more than a competition about web development.
My Verdict: Delightful. Absolutely delightful. Which I am glad for because I had high hopes and was incredibly excited to start this book. Dimple is headstrong and fierce without being tiresome or a cliche. Rishi is genuine and sweet in a way that will endear him to the reader, without coming off as desperate or cloying. The setting of Insomnia Con is perfect in that it gets the students away from their parents, who would otherwise just be in the way, while also keeping them in a somewhat high school-like setting with other students who are not nice people, and authority figures that give them cause to behave and obey a somewhat loose set of rules. Tradition and history of the Indian culture is presented without the plot becoming burdened in details, and the tension between Dimple and her mother feels real. If I had one issue, it would be the character of Celia Ramirez, Dimple's roommate at Insomnia Con. I do not even know if I can put my finger on it, but something about her was just...off. Parts of her personality felt forced and fake, and there were moments where it seemed her only purpose was to push Dimple to put on make-up or wear nicer clothes once in awhile. But her presence did not mar the book in any significant way, making this an awesome new read for any YA lover.
Favorite Moment: It is the moment depicted on the back cover: when Dimple throws her iced coffee in Rishi's face immediately upon meeting him for the first time.
Favorite Character: I am actually having a hard time choosing between Dimple or Rishi. I like that Dimple knows what she wants and is not easily swayed. But I also like how earnest Rishi is and how he manages to not be bothered by the crappy behavior of others.
Recommended Reading: The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon also explores the clash that can occur when a college-bound teenager is not too thrilled about honoring their parents' wishes for their life.