Book Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

This was my last YA book club read for the school year. I was intrigued by the plot. Dimple is a recent high school graduate raised by a traditional Indian family in America. Her parents have expectations that she meet the “ideal Indian husband,” but she has an independent streak and wants to follow her dream of being a coder, a field dominated by males. She is accepted into a summer program in San Francisco, and she learns that her “betrothed” (or, at least, the person her parents want her to marry) is going there, too. He has no real interest in coding; rather, he wants to pursue art.

The novel follows the two alternating perspectives, jumping between Dimple and Rishi multiple times per chapter. The point of view shifts happen quickly, sometimes only a sentence or two. The plot is somewhat predictable. I kept waiting for a twist… but nothing.

It was a cute story, but it lacked complexity for me. There were moments that could have been skipped. The point of view shifts could have been used to show passage of time, but instead I felt I was shown every moment of her experience at the summer program. Despite all the detail regarding her freaking out about whether she likes or hates Rishi, I didn’t get much detail about her work as a coder. It was just something that happened in the background. As someone who believes in encouraging females to go into fields dominated by men (if they want to), I was disappointed that Dimple didn’t seem to be that much of a role model for an aspiring coder, simply because her life was overtaken by boy craze.

To that end, the book lost me toward the end when Rishi and Dimple started kissing all the time and eventually have consensual sex. While the sex wasn’t explicit, I felt like I was reading a light version of a new adult romance novel. I wanted that same kind of passion used to describe her coding experience. After all, she has the chance to meet her coding idol, but the narrative focuses so much on her relationship.

I could see using this novel to teach point of view in a creative writing class. While there are references to Indian culture, I thought it fell short of going into true depth. The two characters once in a while complain that the field is dominated by the privileged: white, male, wealthy. They bemoan, at one point, the fact that America forces the icons of the Easter bunny and Santa Claus upon the population—why is that the dominant religion? But aside from that, and some Indian culture brought in when her parents speak to her over the phone and encourage her to wear traditional Indian clothing, I didn’t truly feel enlightened in the Indian culture. I thought that, and the coding, were two places the book fell short of a great opportunity.

Still, it was a cute read. I can see a reluctant reader speeding through it.

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