Friday, June 1, 2018

Young Adult Fiction: From Twinkle, with Love by Sandhya Menon

Welcome to Door Stop Novel's second annual YA Fest! Once again, the entire month of June will be dominated by young adult fiction, and I could not be more pleased that we will have five Fridays instead of four to work with. Kicking things off will be From Twinkle, with Love by Sandhya Menon. Last year I was able to read Menon's When Dimple Met Rishi, and was absolutely surprised and delighted by lovable characters and a fun storyline.

The Situation: Twinkle Mehra has stories she wants to tell, and she hopes to someday use films as a medium to do so. She has a YouTube channel, and has put some stuff out there, but none of it has really ever gotten any attention outside of her former best friend and her grandmother. She would love it if her lifelong crush, Neil Roy, would suddenly find her worthy of his attention. Convinced that being Neil's girlfriend would elevate her status at school, and maybe even allow her to win back her best friend, Maddie, Twinkle has become fixated on the fantasy on one day ending up on his arm. But currently, she feels invisible and more than a little miserable. With a diary in hand that was a birthday present from her grandmother, Twinkle begins writing letters to famous female directors, whose steps she hopes to one day follow.

The Problem: With a little prodding from Maddie, Twinkle decides to take a huge step and work with Sahil Roy, Neil's twin brother, in making a film for an upcoming school festival. Though she is absolutely terrified that the whole thing could fail, Twinkle takes Sahil up on his offer to produce it and begins making plans. To her surprise, Sahil is actually a blast to hang out with and gets her in a way not many people do. He would be ideal boyfriend material if she was not still hung up on his twin brother. It also does not help that Twinkle has started receiving emails from a secret admirer who she is convinced is Neil. Oh, and Sahil has made it perfectly clear he would prefer it if they were more than friends and colleagues. Add in the drama with Maddie and her new not-so-friendly clique, and the last few weeks of Twinkle's junior year become more than her wallflower tendencies are used to dealing with. If she is not careful, Twinkle could end up causing the kind of pain she is used to getting from everyone else, and possibly losing out on relationships that could last well beyond high school. 

Genre, Themes, History: This is a young adult fiction novel set during the last few weeks of school before summer break. Most of the action is leading up to the school's Midsummer Night Arts Festival, where Twinkle will be showcasing the film she directed with Sahil as her producer. Written almost entirely from Twinkle's point of view, and through diary entries she has addressed to various female directors (Nora Ephron, Sofia Coppola, Ava DuVernay, etc.), Twinkle's story unfolds as she attempts to navigate the minefield that is high school, especially for someone who is used to not being seen, not speaking up, and not being included. Occasionally there are entries from Sahil's point of view that come in the form of his personal blog posts, or a text exchange between himself and his two best friends. Also included are the emails from Twinkle's mysterious secret admirer. Ultimately, the novel explores the insecurity rich environment that is high school, and how not everything or everyone is as they seem. While Twinkle is dealing with the very real pain of losing her best friend, she must also come to terms with her own capacity to cause pain and also not give someone a fair chance to be their best self.     

My Verdict: Once again, Menon has crafted an utterly delightful and enjoyable experience through the adventures of Twinkle Mehra. At the beginning, I did find Twinkle's musings to be a bit all over the place and hard to follow, but that could easily be explained away as nervous teenage wallflower energy and being generally clueless about what to do with her daily high school reality. The longer the story went on, the better it got, the easier I could relate, and the more I liked most of the characters, though the diversity of them felt forced. It was incredibly satisfying watching Twinkle get more and more used to believing in herself as well as her own voice. And it was also nice watching her find out that people are not always what they seem when watching them from a distance. People can surprise you, for better or for worse, and no one can be judged on sight. This book is for anyone who enjoys a good romantic comedy, or even just a lesson in surviving high school. 

Favorite Moment: When Twinkle was hoping to have a modest number of people audition for her movie, only to end up getting a bigger crowd than she would have ever expected.

Favorite Character: Victoria Lyons is the friend we all need. She is also that person we have always known about, but did not officially meet until a good amount of time later, and immediately regret all of the days we haven't hung out together. 

Recommended Reading: Obviously, When Dimple Met Rishi is a must, but Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell would also be a great follow-up. 

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