When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon (2017), narrated by Sneha Mathan and Vikas Adam
Dimple is ambitious, practical, determined, and generally a bit angry. She's always scowling. She refuses to wear make-up, and has no patience for the frat-boy types her roommate Celia hangs out with, who she and Rishi call Aberzombies. She's also not interested in having her parents choose a husband for her.
Rishi is at Insomnia Con to meet Dimple. He's planning to go to MIT in the fall to study engineering, so he'll have a secure income on which to raise a family. Growing up he drew comics, working especially hard on one about an Indian superhero. But his art is all-consuming and he has decided to put it aside for a more practical career. Still, when he arrives at the SFSU campus for Insomnia Con, he sees an ad for Little Comic Con and decides to attend, just for fun. Little did he know he'd meet one of his heroes, and eventually begin to second-guess his career plans.
One of my favorite things about this story is that even though Dimple was super angry to find out her parents were hoping she'd marry Rishi, she doesn't respond by writing him off entirely. Rishi is a really, really nice guy and she sees that right away. They get along well and she's happy to be friends with him. Of course, this is a romance so they do start dating. They try to hang out with Celia and her friends, who are total snobs who make fun of Dimple, and they are all competing to win, so there's a lot of angst and drama in the story.
My only complaint at all is that there wasn't enough about the actual competition and the development of their apps. Not that I wanted to read about coding - I really don't ever want to read about coding - but I think they had classes and workshop time to work on their projects and we didn't really see it. I know Dimple and Rishi were working on an app to help people manage their diabetes, but I don't know what was involved or how the project was going or if they struggled at all. We only saw their free time, which they seemed to have a lot of considering how competitive this program is supposed to be.
We did, however, see how much time they spent on preparation for the talent show. Rishi and Dimple performed a Bollywood dance, which I'm very sorry I didn't get to actually see. The Aberzombies were performing some sexist bullshit that involved Celia and Isabelle dancing around in bikinis while the frat boys looked at them and made comments about how hot they looked. Celia wanted nothing to do with this idea, and I found her struggle a very compelling part of the story. Lots of great feminist fodder in this book!
I also really liked the inclusion of Indian-American culture, and even some Hindi conversations. Dimple and Rishi were both Indian-American, but they were different from each other - Rishi traditional and Dimple not so much - and their families were different, and they both struggled with their relationships and expectations of their families. This is also a different sort of arranged marriage than what most Americans think of when we think of arranged marriage. I think most of us picture a young girl being forced to marry someone she doesn't know, who might be much older than she is. Although that's a reality for some cultures, it's not for this one. It's more like parents talking to their friends and deciding their kids might be a good match and they should meet. Like a blind date arranged by your parents. Nobody is forced into anything.
This was a very fun and enjoyable teen book! For a while there, I kept seeing it on all the blogs everywhere and it seemed like everyone loved it, so I couldn't resist downloading it from Audible and I'm glad I did. The narrators were both great and I liked the story quite a bit. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes teen books, but especially if you're looking for a bit of cultural diversity.
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