Rasa and Jaya live totally different lives in Hawaii, each struggling to find themselves when they find each other.
Teenage Rasa supports herself and her younger siblings by doing the sex work she was groomed to do by her mother. When they are abandoned, Rasa is put into a separate foster home from her siblings. A sense of stability begins to take hold in her until her carers sell her to a sadistic, wealthy pimp who terrorizes and gaslights her until her identity is obliterated. Meanwhile, Jaya lives a life of privilege in a wealthy Gujarati family, but their picture-perfect life is a lie he detests. His father cheats on his mother, they both drink excessively, and they pressure Jaya to be the ideal daughter. Jaya knows he’s trans but isn’t sure how to tell them that he’s a boy and is never going to marry a wealthy man. One day, Jaya sees Rasa picking liliko’I fruit and is sure he’s seen a goddess. A budding romance turns dark as Jaya’s paranoia about Rasa’s caginess and dishonesty comes to a head and they learn the truth about each other. Readers may find it difficult to reconcile how they feel about Jaya toward the end after rooting for him the whole way through, as there’s some unanswered abuse in his reaction to finding out who Rasa really is.
Nevertheless, Patel has written a book so intense and messy that it may just reflect real life in a way that neither fairy-tale endings nor outright tragedies can do. (Fiction. 14-18)