Review: Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia

February 24, 2017 Diversity 3, Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review: Enter Title Here by Rahul KanakiaEnter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia
Published by Disney-Hyperion on August 2, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
three-half-stars
I’m your protagonist—Reshma Kapoor—and if you have the free time to read this book, then you’re probably nothing like me.

Reshma is a college counselor’s dream. She’s the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars. But there are plenty of perfect students in the country, and if Reshma wants to get into Stanford, and into med school after that, she needs the hook to beat them all.

What's a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. Which is exactly what Reshma does after agent Linda Montrose spots an article she wrote for Huffington Post. Linda wants to represent Reshma, and, with her new agent's help scoring a book deal, Reshma knows she’ll finally have the key to Stanford.

But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. And she's already planned the perfect ending: after struggling for three hundred pages with her own perfectionism, Reshma will learn that meaningful relationships can be more important than success—a character arc librarians and critics alike will enjoy.

Of course, even with a mastermind like Reshma in charge, things can’t always go as planned. And when the valedictorian spot begins to slip from her grasp, she’ll have to decide just how far she’ll go for that satisfying ending. (Note: It’s pretty far.)

Diversity Rating: 3 – Closer to Reality

Racial-Ethnic: 5 (POC characters are absolutely everywhere)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 1 (Reshma uses Adderall illegally and has a breakdown at one point)
Intersectionality: 3 (though it focuses on her race more than her gender, Reshma does reflect on how life differs from white girls’ lives at times)

Way back in 2006, I was a budding newsie but not yet a reader. The local news didn’t report on it, so I didn’t learn about of Kaavya Viswanathan and all the plagiarism in her YA novel until years later. It was about thirty kinds of messy and probably hard on her considering she was then a recent high school graduate and brand-new college student. I wouldn’t be able to go through what she did at eighteen. Enter Title Here and Reshma’s attempts to write a novel in order to ensure she gets into Stanford take clear inspiration from Viswanathan’s experience, but it goes far into the territory of being creepy while it does so.

Reshma is the kind of girl I like to read about: unapologetically awful but intriguing in a way that makes you stick with them as you see there’s so much more to them than what they present to you. She made the eighth-grade-me mistake of writing her novel with fictionalized versions of herself/everyone in her life, so she would have been thirty kinds of dead had her book ever reached publication. Just letting one of my friends read my eighth grade book led to the end of our friendship! (Without going into details, I can tell you it was entirely my fault.)

At one point, I joked that the novel had broken through the fourth wall with its metafictional elements and was knocking on the fifth. Though the multiple layers were baffling at times, I was happy to work out exactly how many there were in how Kanakia’s novel is “really” Reshma’s life as lived by her and also as fictionalized by her for her agent. Reshma mentions at one point that she sent a “prettified” version to her agent as requested, but the abrasive narrative makes it clear we’re getting the raw, “unprettified” version Reshma keeps for herself on her computer. It knocks on all sorts of YA contemporary tropes, making hits out of some and missing the mark on others.

One thing that baffled me: how the novel lays out that colleges like Stanford and Harvard will only consider a single student per high school in their binding early decision process. The top-ranked students at Reshma’s school (including her) actually get together and declare which single school they’re applying to early so the rest don’t try to apply there. In the past, Reshma explains, eight of their top ten students applied early to Harvard, but only one of them was actually considered in early admission. The other seven were “pushed into” regular decision because the one had already applied.

I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works? Like, at all? A school that did so would be sabotaging itself because a high school might produce two or more highly desirable geniuses, especially a school as prestigious as Reshma’s?

I was also confused about all the drama about early action/early decision because Reshma doesn’t explain it at all and my only requirement when I applied early action to four schools was to get the application in by the deadline. It took independent research to discover the difference and get why Stanford was the only school Reshma could apply to. Her acceptance would have been a binding agreement for her to attend the school; none of my applications were binding, so I wasn’t obligated to attend the first school that accepted me.

Back to what I introduced at the start of this review. If you’ve read up on Viswanathan, you’ll probably be creeped out by exactly how much of her life Kanakia incorporates into Reshma’s. Reshma’s prospective novel as she describes it is also an accurate description of Viswanathan’s novel; the entire plagiarism aspect would also count even though Reshma’s is in school assignments and an online article, not in her book. Kanakia practically mined Viswanathan’s life for drama to put in Enter Title Here! Lord help the author and the publisher if Viswanathan ever reads this book.

So yeah, a man mining a WOC’s life and her most public troubles for novel fodder the way Kanakia did is pretty creepy, but the novel as a whole was pretty good once I stopped feeling a bit ill (and also when Reshma’s therapy sessions stopped making my head ache with all the metafiction). Something that could have been expanded on rather than taking up pages mining Viswanathan’s’ life: the lawsuit she files against her school for racial discrimination in how her plagiarism is punished.

If you want a new way to think about storytelling and YA contemporary fiction, Enter Title Here will be exactly what you want in that respect. I wouldn’t necessarily buy my own copy, but I’d check out my library’s multiple times to reread it and take some notes on what it has to say about fiction. Want you next unlikable female protagonist? Meet Reshma Kapoor.

Wintry Bingo 15 Enter Title Here

 

 

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