Opposites attract in this teen romance shaped by immigration, grief, and loss.
Susan Thomas and Malcolm Vakil could not be more different. Susan is a shy, bookish Malayali Christian perfectionist who grew up in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, before moving to Canada for her senior year of high school. Malcolm is a hell-raising Parsi Canadian still reeling from his mother’s death, his father’s abuse, and his ex-girlfriend’s betrayal. Despite their better judgment, the two teens strike up a tentative romance, their feelings quickly deepening from infatuation to true love. But as Susan grapples with her parents’ impending divorce and her desire to go to art school and Malcolm confronts his conflicted feelings for his ex-girlfriend and his damaged relationship with his father and stepmother, the two must learn to overcome their insecurities to support each other. The story is told from each of their points of view, and each perspective is nuanced and distinct. Susan’s character arc is convincing and compelling, defying her initial characterization as a clichéd, overprotected Indian girl. But while the action is fast-paced and the characters refreshingly diverse, Bhathena’s (A Girl Like That, 2018) clumsy prose and stilted dialogue limit the narrative’s emotional impact. The Parsi elements of the book ring true, particularly refreshing considering how little Parsis are represented in Western YA literature. In contrast, the book is riddled with cultural inaccuracies and stereotypes about southern Indians that unfortunately render those characters less believable.
A diverse, entertaining love story that falls just short of extraordinary. (Romance. 14-18)