4 Stars - I recommend if you are looking for a contemporary read with diverse voices and endearing characters. I particularly loved the commentary on the "American Dream" and how the characters found their places within that.
This novel follows Dimple, a Indian girl who has just graduated from high school. She's been accepted to Stanford and cannot wait to start her life in web design. She's shocked that her parents are letting her go to Stanford, and even more so when they agree to let her go to a summer coding camp at SFSU. Rishi is the oldest son in his family, he's traditional, a romantic, a pragmatist, and so ready to meet his "future wife", Dimple. When he shows up at coding camp and tells her as much, she throws iced coffee in his face. When they're paired together for the coding project they'll challenge each other's ideas of tradition and bravery.
I just loved this book! I loved that this book had main characters from a culture different than my own and gave more representation to POC in the YA genre. I loved the balance between Indian family tradition and the American dream. It was so fun to read these characters and watch them learn from one another. I also loved that Dimple was into tech, and Rishi was into art. I feel like this book does a really nice job of challenging traditional cultural, societal, religious, gender, etc. etc. roles in a very thoughtful way. I loved reading Rishi's commentary on beliefs and religion, when asked why he says, "Oh my gods" instead of "Oh my god". (long quote, but I loved it):
"This is how it works in the US: In the spring we are constantly subjected to bunnies and eggs wherever we go, signifying Christ's resurrection. Then right around October we begin to see pine trees and nativity scenes and laughing fat white men everywhere. Christian iconography is all over the place, constantly in our faces, even in casual conversation. This is the bible of comic book artists...He had a come to Jesus moment, all of that stuff. So this is my way of saying, Hey, maybe I believe something a little different. And every time someone asks me why 'gods,' I get to explain Hinduism."
This is the one that really got me though:
"I feel like I need to speak out, because if no one speaks out, if no one says, This is me, this is what I believe in, and this is why I'm different, and this is why that's okay, then what's the point? What's the point of living in this beautiful, great melting pot where everyone can dare to be anything they want to be?"
Wow, right?! What a statement, what a truth. I've felt that way so much (in the past year especially), when did America stop being proud that we are a "great melting pot, where everyone can dare to be anything they want to be"? I'm still proud. That's the America I believe in, so to read it put into words so well had my heart beaming. Thank you, Sandhya Menon.
My only complaint was that I wish there was a bit more explanation on the phrases and words that were in Hindi. Sometimes they were translated, sometimes I could get the gist, but I wanted to know what they meant all the way through the book. I'm just like that. I'm the one who always wants to translate everything, and use all the footnotes, etc. I did however, appreciate that she used Hindi. It really made it feel authentic to hear these families and characters speaking in a Hindi-English hybrid. I also appreciated the author's colorful phrasing, "Aberzombie" and "Douche Nozzle" were particularly delightful. LOL