Sooooooo good morning Virtually Readers. Today we review one of the most hyped titles of the week, month, year, whatever timescale you’re into. Anyway, the book is (if you haven’t looked at the title of this post) When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. So Shar and I are reviewing this together, and we’re going to separate this post into Plot, Character, and Themes. Onwards!
Shar: As you might know, Shanti and I are both Indian (among other things), and we live in India, etc. So needless to say, we were both excited to hear about a book with Indian main characters, which is still pretty rare in YA considering how many Indian people there are in the world. We were even more excited to get an e arc of the book (provided by the author, doesn’t affect our opinion, yada yada). Plus there was A LOT of hype so I was even more excited to read it. I looked forward to an Indian-American female MC who enjoyed tech (I’ve recently become interested in coding although I really suck at it), which I thought would be relatable.
Shanti: I did really like that there was more than one Indian character in this story. This is the second time I’ve seen that (not counting books set in India). Like, ¾ main characters and several side characters are Indian, and they’re not all friends and they don’t all agree on what it means to be an Indian in America. That tension was really interesting.
Shar: I totally agree! I liked how Rishi was pretty traditional, his brother Aashish was not, and Dimple was sort of in-between. The book also showed how the characters deal with the expectations of their parents and their more modern sensibilities in different ways.
That was one of my favourite things….but it was resolved in a weird way, if you ask me, because Rishi decides to be ‘rebellious’, Dimple more or less sticks to the plan, and then Ashish is the wild child. How did you feel about the various connections between Dimple and Rishi (e.g. their back story?)
Shar: I liked it, but at the same time I thought that the way they connected because of their past wasn’t that important, and almost like an excuse for insta-love? It wasn’t exactly insta-love (because Dimple starts determined to hate Rishi), but their attraction is obvious from the start.
Exactly! It felt a little unnecessary to have that bonus connection. Overall, I liked the characters, but felt a little too much like Menon was really focused on dealing with stereotypes, that the characters weren’t quite unique–but they were lots of fun to read about. Shar, what’s your verdict?
Shar: I liked the characters, and I think they were well developed, but also slightly stereotypical. One last thought: There was dual narration in third person, (chapters titled ‘Dimple’ or ‘Rishi’ , only showing their thoughts) but to be honest because it was third person and switched quite quickly, it kind of distracted me.
So I think that the plot was not really the point of WDMR. It was just a loose structure to make the characters do things. That’s fine though–a lot of ‘cute’ contemporaries do that. And the format of having to develop an app was enjoyable, with little tensions and summer camp dramas. Overall I liked how the romance paralleled what was happening in the app. I did have two qualms, though: One was a relationship that just felt excessively contrived (I won’t say who it was) and I also didn’t quite get the justification for the plot point that make the ending all dramatic–again that felt a bit contrived.
Shar: Shanti basically said it all, but a few things: I almost enjoyed the predictable-ness because it was not the point. Also, I wished there was more actual coding in the plot: I don’t think the author knew much about app development because it was basically like ‘and then Dimple coded some things and Rishi drew some stuff and the app was super duper great’, and I wanted to know details. Lastly, the beginning of the book was mostly focused on the relationship, but the ending became a bit crazy because it started to focus on the love lives of Rishi’s brother Aashish and Dimple’s roommate Celia. I still enjoyed it though!
Shar: Probably the most important part of this book was its themes and (in my opinion) how well written they were. Shanti, what do you think some of the themes were and what was your opinion?
Shanti: I really liked the ideas around the complexity of identity especially as an Indian in the US. Obviously, I’ve never been to the US–I’m a sort of Indian in India, but how different characters figured out their Indian-ness AND their American-ness was really effective and that made me happy–or at the very least contemplative. Basically, Menon is saying that the best way to be an Indian in America is to be sure of yourself and willing to compromise, with other Americans and with other Indians. If you know when you want to wear kurta’s and kajal, if you want to have an arranged marriage, when you want to Bollywood dance and when you need to throw coffee at someone, then you can come to a cultural in-between space.
How Menon wrote about that was what made the whole story worthwhile for me, despite other qualms I had. The characters were in the process of figuring out how to be Indian in America, and it was a constant, evolving thing, that meant different things to them at different. That was honest and relatable, and what made the story really enjoyable.
Lastly, I’ll mention a few of my favourite scenes: The coffee-throwing scene, Aashish being an arrogant younger brother and them arguing, and Dimple being coached to do a bollywood dance by Aashish. (I just loved Aashish, okay). Oh yeah ALSO Dimple and Rishi go on a book-reading date and AHHHHH ship so hard.
Shar’s star rating: 4/5
Shanti’s star rating:3.5/5
Have you read this? Do you want to now? (yes, you do?) How do you feel about super hyped books? What about ones you think you’ll find relatable? What tropes do you enjoy?