Author: Aisha Saeed
Genre(s): Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Release Date: March 24, 2015
Date Read: July 30, 2015
Buy This Book: Amazon | Book Depository
My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This heart-wrenching novel explores what it is like to be thrust into an unwanted marriage. Has Naila’s fate been written in the stars? Or can she still make her own destiny?
Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up—but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating—even friendship with a boy—is forbidden. When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed—her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late.
"Should love involve pulling the person you claim to love deeper into your own destructive life, to be destroyed along with you?"
This one hit so close to home, I can't even begin to explain how much I could relate to Naila. Being a Pakistani girl myself, living in foreign countries for most of my life and having traditional parents is a unique lifestyle and one that no average white heroine can portray. I'm ever so grateful for the diversity that is this beautiful book. Even though Naila went through a whole lot worse than I ever did, I don't think I ever connected to a protagonist before as much as I did with her. I JUST WANT TO HUG HER, MY PRECIOUS CINNAMON ROLL.
Throughout it all, I recognized the many nasty cultural aspects of Naila's life like everyday sexism in parenting that seems natural but is obviously discriminating (Naila's brother can learn to drive but Naila can't, Naila is scolded for smoking hookah but her brother gets away with it scott free, he's encouraged to complete his education first instead of encouraged to get married, etc.), the widespread community gossip, the constant fear of being shunned by family and friends.
There were some familiar homely aspects too like the FOOD. Aye, the food made my mouth water for my mom's home cooking. All the milky chai with halva, the spicy keema and pakoras! Bless the food. And the Urdu words mixed with the English, I jumped when I read the word "beta" for the first time because I wasn't expecting the book to be that authentic. But it was and I was grinning whenever Naila was automatically thinking Khala instead of aunt and Chacha instead of uncle because same. There's even a part of the book that takes place in Pakistan and the city of Lahore felt so real, down to the colorful rickshaws, random blackouts and sooty street vendors. It was all so well-described.
Then there's that romance! Saif is an ANGEL — a sweet, caring, precious angel. I kept having this fear at the back of my mind that sooner or later, he was going to abandon Naila because the trouble wasn't worth it but I should have trusted him more because their love went through so many hurdles but it was still so real and it just argh *clutches heart*. I wish the world was populated with more angelic Saifs.
I also loved the friendship between Selma and Naila. It wasn't all cheery laughter and hugs and kisses because c'mon, it's almost impossible to have a simple friendship like that. There were realistic rifts between them because of their different upbringings but I liked how they both overcame those differences and supported each other no matter what. The other characters were horrendous but none of them felt black-and-white and 2D. They had good qualities, bad qualities and realistic motivations. They were humans.
The story itself felt like a spiraling staircase into a pit of darkness. Whenever I thought things were finally going to get better, they ended up getting 478386 times worse and it terrified me. I was on the edge of my seat, reading this whole book in one sitting, and desperately rooting for Naila to find happiness and love. It was a heart-wrenching, emotional rollercoaster.
In the end, I feel like this book is so necessary. I feel so happy that Naila's story exists. I felt so touched when I read the author's note and saw the emergency contacts on the page after. I feel hopeful that this might open people's eyes to the reality of forced marriage and how suffocating and terrifying it can be. I feel so many emotions in knowing that girls out there, who have went through the same struggle or are going through it still, can look to somewhere for comfort or escape or help or whatever this story brings to them.
It's the best cherry on top (or maybe the whole cake?) that the book is such a well-written one.
|Bless this book's creation. 5 clouds of EMOTIONS.|