Overall enjoyment: 2.5/5
World building: 3/5
“Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but lately she’s finding that harder and harder to do. She rolls her eyes instead of screaming when they blatantly favor her brother and she dresses conservatively at home, saving her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don’t know about. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life in Seattle and her new life at Caltech, where she can pursue her dream of becoming an engineer.
But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana’s plans fall apart. Her parents are devastated; being gay may as well be a death sentence in the Bengali community. They immediately whisk Rukhsana off to Bangladesh, where she is thrown headfirst into a world of arranged marriages and tradition. Only through reading her grandmother’s old diary is Rukhsana able to gain some much needed perspective.
Rukhsana realizes she must find the courage to fight for her love, but can she do so without losing everyone and everything in her life?”
I started this book think while there might be a little teenage hardship in this book it would be a fairly light read. I was WRONG!!!! Normally I don’t give book warnings since everyone has their own personal triggers and opinions, but this one got unexpectedly dark. There were definitely times were I almost put this book down. Maybe it was because it hit a bit too close to home for me, but there’s some serious homophobia in this book. If you’re sensitive to that I would encourage you to read with caution. This book starts out light with normal teenage concerns and then hits on some serious topics.
The characters. Rukshana herself was an interesting character and I love that we were introduced to some of her Bangladesh culture and how that affects her as someone who is a first-generation teenager living in the US. I think it also was very open and honest about the different cultural pressures some girls with more traditional family may experience. There are of course other characters, but they seemed pretty shallow to me. I would say Rukshana’s family gets a little depth especially her grandmother, but I was left wanting more especially about Rukshana’s girlfriend.
World building was minor in that it takes places in the modern world, but there’s so much cultural bits in this book that I feel I was given a look into another experience of what life could be had I been born into a different family. I very much enjoyed it.
Diversity. This book was focused on Rukshana, a Desi lesbian. It also includes other LGBTQ+ characters as well as her family which is as mentioned originally from Bangladesh. Definitely a diverse read!
Overall, I AM GOING TO GIVE SPOILERS! PLEASE SKIP IF WANT TO AVOID!!!!!
I loved the cultural elements of this book and I was really excited to read it, but how the LGBTQ+ elements were handled in this book made it almost impossible for me to enjoy. First, there is really no meaningful relationship between Rukshana and Ariana in my opinion. They’re together in the book, but we never learn how they met or really why Rukshana even loves Ariana so much. They’re either making out, arguing, or apologizing. It was flat for me and really disappointing. Once the mother catches the two girls together Rukshana is tricked into going to Bangladesh with her parents where they hire someone who basically tells the family that Rukshana is controlled by a jinn and they need to do and exorcism. Now, while this was horrifying to read I understand that there can be some importance to having this experience in the novel. I’m not sure if this is being practiced in any part of Bangladesh or anywhere today, but if so then I would want people to know about it and understand what experience men and women from these areas may be having. What I didn’t appreciate was that once Rukshana’s parents realize they were wrong the follow through of regaining trust, apologizing, etc. seemed too brief and easy to me. I wanted more conversation and depth, but it sped all too quickly for me. I also had mixed feelings about the death of Sohail, a closested gay man that Rukshana’s parents want her to marry. I think the author was maybe trying to open our eyes to the struggles of LGBTQ+ youth in Bangladesh and if this character had been more of a focal point with more backstory maybe it would have felt more powerful to me, but I felt like Sohail was only in the books so that his death could make Rukshana’s parents realize how awful it would be if their daughter was murdered. This then makes them realize that they’d rather accept her rather than see her killed. He was a plot point and I have a hard time with that. So, maybe I’m still too raw and emotional about this book to see it objectively. If you see it from a different angle I wouldn’t mind hearing your thoughts and maybe discussing it. I want to like this book and I do love the cultural aspects, but the rest is hard to swallow.