When Dimple Met Rishi
Author: Sandhya Menon
Genre: Contemporary | Young Adult | Romance
4 out of 5 – A solid, enjoyable and fun contemporary romance story between two young adults who need to find themselves and their place in the world. This story gives a different cultural perspective than the usual ‘white’ perspective offered in other young adult novels. Not only was it a good book, it was also a refreshing read.
Dimple wants nothing more than to go to the web design summer programme, move to Stanford and then live her life, on her own terms. She wants to leave the repressive Indian culture of her parents that she feels confined by, but she knows that this is impossible. Until her parents inexplicably agree to let her go, to give her the freedom she wanted and the opportunity to succeed. Except her parents have a plan – they will set her up with a suitable match while she is there… Rishi Patel
“She’d seen what his soul was made of. And she’d liked it.”
“I used to paint when I was your age. Sometimes I dream in watercolour.”
I expected When Dimple Met Rishi to be a simple and enjoyable romance which I could quickly get through and then move on to my next book. I thought it would be a feel-good read, and then we’d move on, but that wasn’t the case. This novel was more than that, and I really enjoyed the additional elements which elevated it above simplistic rom-com status.
The main characters are both American teens of Indian descent and these two cultures clash creating conflict for the characters throughout the novel. There were two things that Menon could do with this book, choose to write a romance that featured non-white characters, but was just a romance, or write a book that interrogated the culture of the characters while doing so. Not a book that disowns or distances the characters from the two cultures that they are equally apart of, but which embraces this. Luckily, Menon went for the second option.
Dimple is a character that is trying to break away from the cultural traditions she feels are imposed on her by her family. She looks up to American women and wants to be free to make a difference in the world. She looks at the women around her as if they are quiet, passive, and only concerned with being homemakers, and she dreams of more. Rishi is the opposite; he is a good, dutiful son who respects his heritage and desires to grow up in a way that will fulfil all of his parents’ dreams. Rishi is willing to sacrifice aspects of his own passion for a life more in line with the Indian culture he sees presented to him. He wants to marry, have a family, and a job that will make his family proud. All of this seems simplistic, almost stereotypical, but what Menon does from here is not. The novel chooses to subvert this. It does not show Dimple to be correct in shirking her heritage but tries to show her how to embrace it, and how to respect the women around her as much as she respects other pioneering women who make different life choices. Similarly, Rishi is shown that his heritage and being culturally aware does not have to always mean sacrifice. It is a valuable message shown through the book.
I love that this book shows the characters really trying to find themselves, and struggling with that. At the end of the book, they are not ‘complete’, they are not ‘finished’, but have used a summer of experience to learn a little bit about themselves, each other, and their families, and this will help them to move forward into an adult world of discovery. I think it would have been easy for Menon to show a direct rejection of cultural traditions, but I like that these were instead incorporated, and I felt that the characters were fully formed characters who live a life that is filled with Indian culture. It was good to read this. It was also good to not see it being explained. In this novel, I feel the culture is just accepted as another aspect of life, rather than some kind of special thing that we must all point at and attempt to understand. I just met two characters, who just happen to be of American-Indian heritage, but also just happen to be regular people living regular lives.
It was the villains that let this book down for me a little though, and the pairing off in the end. I feel that the bullying characters were a little two dimensional, and had only been added so that there was some kind of conflict for the characters to rail against. I also feel like they were added to show that there are people who are prejudiced and that these people are not always white, but I don’t think it was done effectively. I think that the addition didn’t add anything to the story, and so it either could have been improved or removed. I probably wouldn’t have noticed the latter? I also feel like the pairing off was unnecessary. This didn’t bother me, it just didn’t need to be there? Not everyone in the novel needs to end up in a relationship. It is okay to be on your own!
In the end, I loved Menon’s writing. I think the themes were enjoyable, the pacing was excellent, and the story fun. I also thought that her language was really fun and, of course, she quoted Wuthering Heights, so I’m sold.
If you like this…
I honestly don’t read much contemporary romance, and this is the first I’ve read with main characters from a diverse background. I would love to read more, and so would love some suggestions from others. I will be eagerly awaiting From Twinkle With Love also by Sandhya Menon.