Title: Written in the Stars
Author: Aisha Saeed
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, #OwnVoices
This heart-wrenching novel explores what it is like to be thrust into an unwanted marriage. Has Naila’s fate been written in the stars? Or can she still make her own destiny?
Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up—but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating—even friendship with a boy—is forbidden. When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed—her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late.
- Pakistan! Woo! The cultural differences are designed with authenticity and grace. After beginning the story in America, Pakistan’s culture explodes in an entirely different way—exposing both the good and bad. (T’was actually quite emotional as a South Asian American among all the references. For example, we Indians share the carrom board (my FAVORITE game) with Pakistan.)
- I’m delighted at the dynamics shown of strict brown parents. Americans hear horror stories about Middle Eastern and South Asian parents forcing their kids into marriage and think: WHAT AWFUL PEOPLE THEY HAVE NO GOODNESS. But no?? Forcing your child into marriage is disgusting. But brown parents still give up bushels for their children, just as Naila’s did in this book. it’s more complicated than black and white.
- PAGE-TURNING EXCELLENCE. The plot line is actually extremely basic, but it’s developed at an engrossing and alluring pace.
- There’s a theme of being trapped—freedom just out of reach. AND YOU FEEL IT. YOU FEEL THE INTENSITY. The words cast that helpless emotions in a masterful pattern.
- The author’s note rocks. While this book deals with the rotten side of arranged marriages, the author herself is in a happily arranged marriage. It’s important to know that this tradition isn’t diabolical in every case.
- The writing is SO SIMPLE. I 24691% prefer vivid language, so the underdeveloped characters and descriptions were not for me.
- Also, books: don’t be predictable!! It’s my least favorite thing!! Why do you do this!! The “plot twist” was clear to me and I’m sure anyone else who’s ever seen a Desi movie, so the protagonist’s naïveté was AGONIZING.
Written in the 3.5 stars! Ha! I am so clever! I love me!
What witty spins on this title do you have? What are your favorite books by South Asian authors? Do you know any other YA books set in Pakistan? Any dealing with arranged marriage? C’mon chaps! Let’s chat!