on May 30th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
The arranged marriage YA romcom you didn't know you wanted or needed...
Her main aim in life is to escape her traditional parents, get to university and begin her plan for tech world domination.
He's rich, good-looking and a hopeless romantic. His parents think Dimple is the perfect match for him, but she's got other plans...
Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works even harder to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.
As joyfully refreshing as Rainbow Rowell, Jenny Han and Nicola Yoon, When Dimple Met Rishi is a frothy, funny contemporary romance told from the dual perspectives of two Indian American protagonists. While Dimple is fighting her family traditions, Rishi couldn't be happier to follow in the footsteps of his parents - could sparks fly between this odd couple, or is this matchmaking attempt doomed to fail?
That moment you realize you’ve been reading a lot of fantasy because you tried to create a section “world-building” for a contemporary (I realized that, unless I was going to judge how well the university campus was described, I wasn’t going to get very far). In the premise on GR, it says, The arranged marriage YA romcom you didn’t know you wanted or needed… Well, I sure knew I wanted it but I didn’t know I needed it. Apparently, I did. This was the perfect read for my exam phase at uni – light but hooking.
When Dimple Met Rishi was one of my most anticipated releases in the contemporary genre, partly because it sounded cute, but mostly because I expected get a great #OwnVoices view on Indian culture. This debut did not disappoint. It may have had some rough edges, since this is Menon’s first novel, but it was every bit the cute and diverse read I expected it to be.
The characters are simply adorkable. Dimple is this fierce person with wild hair and glasses who feels programming and coding is more satisfactory than caring about her looks. Hence, Dimple Shah had me from the start. She’s relatable on so many levels, and I really liked how she strived for independence from her parents, yet felt conflicted because she cared about what her parents thought of her. Rishi took a little longer to convince me I liked him, mainly because I couldn’t relate to his thoughts and feelings. His wish for a relationship with someone his parents had picked and his immediate enchantment with Dimple the first time they meet puzzled me. He’s super traditional which seemed to weird out both Dimple and me, but the more the story progresses, the more Rishi’s burden of duty and responsibility towards his parents becomes apparent. Rishi is a genuinely sweet guy, a hopeless romantic, and the dream of every mother-in-law. I also enjoyed the sibling dynamics between Rishi and Ashish. They represented a clash of cultures, much like Dimple and Rishi, even though they were from the same family. It looked at the roles the oldest and the youngest son had in a traditional Indian family, and how what each wanted of the other was just some approval and respect.
The storyline followed a simple but neat concept of two young people who want very different things in life and love falling in love. Menon did well to depict inner struggles and doubts and second thoughts about something that felt right and wrong at the same time. If you just focus on Rishi, the romance was pretty insta-lovey, but luckily, Dimple was able to keep her cool long enough for me to rule out insta-love in the end. Dimple and Rishi make a great pair because they are so different, yet hold so much respect for the other person. Though, logically, there were issues and fights between them, you could tell each wanted the best for the other.
“You guys are just, like, fated to be together, y’know?”
Dimple sighed. “I don’t believe in fate,” she said, although she and Rishi had talked about kismet at the party. “I believe in logic. And logically, I shouldn’t go out on this non-date with him.”
When Dimple Met Rishi covers various themes, such as independence from but responsibilities towards parents (especially with regard to Indian culture and the respective values), belonging when you’re divided between the culture you live in and the culture your parents descend from, chasing your dreams and pursuing the riskier path, arranged marriage, and even bullying. Dimple Shah does not meet the expectations men have of her – to be into girly stuff and wear make-up and that sort of stuff. I was curious to see how Menon was going to handle Dimple’s backbone when Rishi entered the picture. Though Dimple occasionally made some slight changes to her attire, she stayed true to herself. I really loved the message When Dimple Met Rishi sent with regard to self-love and self-positivity.
“Oh, I, uh, those are really great––”
Dimple smiled. “You don’t have to pretend to like them. I like them, and I don’t care that they’re not in style or whatever.”
The writing irriated me at the beginning because it kept skipping between past and present tense. The writing became smoother throughout the book, though. There were also entire untranslated phrases in Hindi in the dialogue, and I didn’t know whether to find this incredibly authentic or rather annoying. I’ve decided that I actually enjoyed the cryptic Hindi parts because their meaning became clear through the answers in English, and I even picked up a few Hindi words.
I’d say the inclusion of Indian culture is this debut’s strongest suit. It probably wasn’t that hard for Menon – an Indian-American author – to depict her culture so authentically and in a full picture, but I noticed how she had thought of even the smallest and most subtle details, like certain gestures or expressions. From the language to customs to clothing to food to religion and beliefs to Bollywood movies and dances, Menon had included absolutely everything. I didn’t feel like there was a single piece missing to this puzzle.
Overall, When Dimple Met Rishi makes for a light read which touches upon serious topics, starring two sweet, dorky Indian-American protagonists. The element of Indian culture is superbly interwoven with a cute romance and some genuine geekiness. If you’re searching for a diverse romance within YA, then this might be just what you’re looking for.
**I received an eARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**