Published by Simon Pulse, Tor Teen Genres: Magical Realism, YA, YA Contemporary
Source: ALA Annual 2016, Bought, eARC via Edelweiss
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Simon Pulse (May 30, 2017)
Source: eARC via Edelweiss, later bought hardcover (which is what I read)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Diversity: 4 (Dimple and Rishi and their families are Indian, Dimple’s roommate Celia is bi and Latina, basically the entire cast is POC save the antagonistic Aberzombie kids)
Good God, everyone was right, this book is so cuuuuuuuuuute. Though I’ll outright admit When Dimple Met Rishi wasn’t to my taste, that doesn’t matter one little bit. What’s important is that Indian kids now have a hate-to-love YA book starring teens who look like them and come from their experience. An Indian teen’s opinion on this book matters much more than mine.
But a brief overview on how I felt about it anyway: Dimple and Rishi’s back-and-forth misunderstandings once they get past their initial less-than-ideal meeting go on for a bit long, but it keeps the book going and they’re pretty cute in the meantime. I was genuinely interested in the coding stuff, but all that falls by the wayside and doesn’t get any detail. It’s simply the thing that brings Dimple and Rishi together in the first place.
Rishi being a major romantic and Dimple rebelling against her family’s expectations was welcome and really went to the core of their characters. There’s so much I will never understand about growing up in an Indian family and the cultural expectations there because I’m white like snow, but I came out of this feeling like I understood others’ challenges better and can improve my feminism by keeping Dimple’s problems in mind. Racism in tech comes up late in the book because it’s something any POC in tech like Dimple will eventually run into the the handling was wonderful.
I was rather sad the hate-to-love aspect was such a minor part of the book. Dimple dislikes Rishi for roughly a day after he introduces himself to her in a coffee shop with a line like “Nice to meet you, future wife!” because he thought she knew her parents were setting them up. SHE DID NOT, READER. Once they get through Insomnia Con’s icebreaker, she’s warmed up to him and the hate-to-love is over.
If you want a YA novel with that bit drawn out longer, try How to Keep a Boy from Kissing You by Tara Eglington. It’s a very white book, especially when compared to the diverse cast of When Dimple Met Rishi, but it’s also ridiculously fun and the two leads are doing hate-to-love for a while. Three words: THE PALM KISS!!! I NEED MORE PEOPLE TO SCREAM ABOUT THIS BOOK’S CUTENESS WITH.
Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter
Tor Teen (September 20, 2016)
Source: ARC from ALA Annual 2016, later bought Kindle ebook (which is what I read)
Rating: 3 stars
Diversity: 1 (two characters have brown skin: Vassa’s love interest and Vassa’s stepsister)
Vassa in the Night is the closest you can get you magical realism without engaging with the literary movement’s Latin American roots. The writing is gorgeous, but it’s also rather impenetrable and can distract from the story at times as Vassa tries to survive Babs Yagg for three nights (Babs demanded it Vassa manged to talk her way out of dying) and free the strange man who circles the store all night on his motorcycle. Babs is… unforgiving of shoplifters, to say the least. She kills them and puts their heads on stakes outside the store.
So much happens in just three nights that it’s a bit hard to keep track at times and you’ll want to put this relatively short book down just to give your head a break. Two mysterious, odd-featured lawyers arrive to serve Babs with legal papers and then get trapped by her, local teens brave the store with all their pockets sewn shut so the disembodied hands Babs commands can’t get them executed for shoplifting, Vassa connects with the motorcycle-riding man in her dreams,…
“Impenetrable” is just the perfect word to describe Vassa in the Night. As much trouble as I had making heads or tails of this literary little book, I’ve got some serious respect for Porter. If it’s difficult for me as a reader, I can only imagine the adventure of writing this book!
Meeting Porter at ALA 2016, where I got this book as an ARC, is something I’ll remember for a while. I complimented her on her Lost Voices siren trilogy, which I read and loved as each book came out. She told me so many people assumed Vassa in the Night was her debut novel that she was glad to hear someone had read her actual debut and its sequels!
(For real, if you want some girls who get turned into sirens by trauma and take out their anger by sinking ships, go for that series. The government is at war with them, there’s some romance later on, and the covers are gorgeous. Like, so-good-I-want-posters gorgeous.)
(She’s also doing a preorder campaign for her next book When I Cast Your Shadow. More info here.)