When Dimple Met Rishi
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Dimple knows exactly what she wants from life, and she knows how she’s going to get it. She wants to become a successful programmer, building applications that save people’s lives. She’ll attend Stanford in the fall and leave her nagging, Ideal Indian Husband-hungry mother behind. Dimple knows she has too much ambition to waste time on relationships she doesn’t even want.
Rishi, on the other hand, lives for love. He’s always been the traditional son in his family, feeling happiest when back in his parents’ native home in India. He, too, will become an engineer because it will allow him to provide for the family he one day plans to start…with Dimple, whose parents have worked with his to arrange their marriage.
Dimple doesn’t know her future’s been planned for her when she leaves to attend Insomnia Con, a coding camp in San Francisco. Rishi is only going so he can meet—and woo—Dimple. No matter what, there will be more to this last summer before college than either one expects!
I tried. I genuinely did. I wanted to love this book. I was all ready to love it. I read the preview and was super-excited. A book with a strong, non-white, female protagonist willing to buck convention? Sign me up! We need all of them!
Twenty pages into this book, I knew exactly what I wanted from it: them not to end up together. Instead of a nice, sweet, falling-in-love story, I wanted Dimple to win all the prizes and be awesome at coding and Rishi to fall for some random, non-Indian chick, like Dimple’s roommate, Celia. I was 100% adamant about that. The two shouldn’t end up together—they honestly have nothing in common, anyway, besides the fact they’re both Indian-Americans! It would never work out in the long term. Dimple should be the master of her own destiny! And Rishi would find love with someone beyond his childhood expectations or go on to do the whole comic thing or whatever. And if neither set of parents liked it, then fine. They could deal. If they didn’t want their kids doing the whole “growing up” and “equality” bits, then that’s their problem.
Thirty-five pages in, I was actually almost desperate for someone to get punched in the nose. It didn’t necessarily have to be Rishi. I mean, sure, he was in full-on creeper mode, but he at least was operating under some delusions. Dimple’s mom? Old lady, but don’t care. Still think she deserved punching. What the everloving heck was she thinking?
Sixty-seven pages in, I could see it happening. They were going to end up together because Reasons.
And I think that was the most frustrating thing for me. Okay, yeah, the premise does have a very strong whiff of Hollywood (Bollywood?) drama, and we all know how chickflicks turn out. 99% of the time the guy gets the girl and we’re told they live happily ever after, regardless of whether the couple is compatible, like, at all. Cue sappy pop song, roll credits, fade to black.
But with this book, Menon had started with a ready-made, independent teenager. She had this setup where she could show that, if your ambition is important to you, then that is perfectly fine, that following your dreams and working hard is a perfectly acceptable goal, regardless of gender. Those are important messages that so much media and so many books tend to push for boys, but not girls. Boys are “driven” and “goal-oriented”; girls are “selfish” and “bossy”. Boys are expected to chase their dreams, go on adventures, be a part of the bigger world; girls are expected to stay home, take care of the kids, and support her man in his endeavors. That might be okay for some women, but it’s not the only option. Girls can have dreams, too! Girls can live happy, fulfilled lives without partners, without children. They can still make the world a better place!
Instead of showing this, showing how breaking with tradition can be a good thing, Menon turns around and makes Dimple and Rishi have a sappy, too-good-to-be-true, no-way-this-will-last sort of relationship. He says that he’s happy for her to continue her computer work, but Rishi is also a traditional sort of guy. When it’s dinnertime, who do they think is going to be cooking? If she has to work late on a project or deploying an update for days at a time, he’ll grow resentful and wonder why she can’t be at home—he has projects, too, but you don’t see him staying at the office. And when they have kids—
I think you get the point.
The other irritating part was that Dimple recognized all of this. She knew that she didn’t want a relationship. She knew she didn’t want to get married or have kids. Even when she and Rishi are together, she knew that her modern versus his traditional outlooks could create trouble in the future. And she still threw her arms in the air and said, “Oh, well! Tee hee! I can’t live without him! This boy I’ve known for six entire weeks is my one true love!” Excuse me while I go bash my head repeatedly against some concrete.
Kids, are you listening to me? Do I have your attention? Do not give up your dreams for anybody. Again, for the people in the back: do not give up your dreams for anybody. It doesn’t matter how “bad” you feel for turning them down. It doesn’t matter if they’re “nice” guys or girls or whatever. If you know where you want to be, and you’re not interested in a relationship, you are not required to be with someone to live a fulfilling life.
Feminist, outgoing, determined Indian-American girl convinces traditional parents to let her go to coding camp only to find out the boy her parents have decided she’ll marry is also there. Rather than sticking up for herself, she goes all Disney-princess, melty idiot for him. Some of the middle school girls might go in for it, but no. Do not encourage this kind of behavior. How the heck is this up for a Goodreads Award?
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- Alcohol Use: underage drinking
- Bullying: characters bully each other into doing things they don’t want to do or because they don’t act a certain way
- Deceit: characters trick one another throughout
- Emotional Abuse: characters guilt each other into behaving a certain way
- Lying: characters lie to each other contantly
- Prejudice: characters are prejudiced against characters from different socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds
- Religion: discussion of various religions and traditions
- Sex: characters engage in and refer to sexual activity
- Supremacy: characters believe they’re better than others due to intelligence or status
- Swearing: minor swearing
- Theft: characters steal from others
- Violence: characters engage in physical fighting
- Change vs. Tradition
- Right vs. Wrong
- Romantic Love
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