Title: When Dimple Met Rishi
Author: Sandhya Menon
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, YA
Rating: ★★★☆☆ | 3.0
Hi, it’s my favourite trope: arranged marriage, but they end up really falling in love! Dimple Shah is everything her mother doesn’t want out of a daughter: wild, stubborn, refusing to wear makeup. So she should have known when her mother allows her to attend the coding camp of her dreams that something was Up.
Because it’s there that she meets Rishi Patel: the Good Son, the hopeless romantic, and the guy who introduces himself to her as her “future husband.” So she does what any normal girl would do: she throws her coffee in his face and runs away. But then, as fate (or the partner preferences Rishi put on his application letter) would have it, the two are paired up, and much to her own annoyance, Dimple finds herself maybe possibly liking Rishi? Unstoppable object, meet immovable force.
So, okay, here’s the thing I’ve come to realise about myself in the past year: I am fully over cute, fluffy, cheese-so-stringy-you-can’t-bite-through-it high school romance. Maybe my hormones have finally calmed down (not that they were ever particularly active, hi, where’s the height and the boobs I was promised before puberty), but I find myself less and less invested in these cute “we’ve known each other for three weeks but I love you” partnerships and more interested in subtler, softer, more muted romances. That’s the crux of my main complaint with When Dimple Met Rishi, so if you prefer your romances gooey and cavity-inducing, feel free to ignore my cynical, unromantic opinion.
That’s not my only issue, though. The novel has a big problem with Dimple being Not Like the Other Girls, and though it’s not as overt and the book tries to address it later, it’s still very much present. Enough to really nag at me for a really long time before I figured out what was bugging me. It’s a much more insidious form of Not Like the Other Girls, though, one that couches itself under the idea of #empowerment––Rishi’s not the only girl in the world with wild, bushy hair, glasses, and no makeup who likes coding, but to read the novel, yes she is.
The other thing that bugged me was the constant explication of elements of Indian culture (such as it can be, given how diverse India is) and the italicisation of the Hindi that’s spoken throughout the novel. There’s a really good link that I lost about italicisation and its role in othering language, and Daniel Jose Older has a video about it. Ultimately, I’m not going to harp too long about this because the author is free to do what she wants with her own culture and language, but it was something that felt very glaringly written for non-Indian audiences to consume, and that ended up distracting me more than not understanding a reference here or there. I did like that much of the Hindi went untranslated, though.
Overall, it was a fun read, and compellingly written, but I would only really rec it if none of the above deter you. I’m going to be honest, I want the novel to be super successful, and I think that cover is great, but I do wish I enjoyed it more.