BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Lovetorn by Kavita Daswani

LovetornAh, this day of mislaid Hallmark hearts … meet Shalini who has had much of her future decided for her – a rather pleasant, happy one at that – by age 3. She’s lived all her life in the family compound in Bangalore, home to 37 family members spread over four generations. She’s been engaged to wonderful Vikram since she was 3, and he was 6. Thirteen years later, they remain a perfect couple, best friends who are committed and adoring, both inextricably linked to each other’s lives.

Now Shalini’s father has a new job in California and the family arrives for a two-year residency in what seems to be an alien world. Shalini’s father and her younger sister Sangita adjust almost effortlessly to the more-than-usual culture shock. In contrast, Shalini’s immersion into American high school life is painful and embarrassing (the resident mean girls actually drop a box of hair remover on Shalini’s desk!), made even more so for missing Vikram so much. Shalini’s mother suffers most of all, completely unable to adjust to an isolated new life away from the bustling family compound, and literally withdraws alone to her darkened room.

With help from Renuka, a new friend who seems to easily balance both her Indian and American cultures, Shalini soon begins to find her voice (and even manages to thank the queen bees for their depilatory efforts). Gingerly stepping into her new life bit by bit, Shalini’s young heart starts to beat faster than she’s ever experienced for her classmate Toby. What’s an engaged girl to do?

Ethnic chick-lit favorite Kavita Daswani offers another easy-breezy teen read with quite an interesting cultural twist of a 21st-century arranged marriage. Daswani gives a nod to her “cousin … in Bangalore, who … confirmed to me that girls like Shalini were real.” Certainly Daswani captures Shalini’s ‘stranger-in-a-strange-land’ experiences with heartfelt authenticity. Perhaps the less convincing depictions belong to Shalini’s mother – her depressions, her treatment, her failure to mother – and ultimately seem out of place with the rest of the otherwise engaging novel.

Tidbit: The back cover copy describes Lovetorn as a “Bollywood twist on a Sarah Dessen novel” which has me a bit befuddled, probably because I admit having never read a Dessen title. Google-ing didn’t turn up much insight to the comparison (the summaries of Dessen’s books on her website maybe suggest a vague similarity with Dessen’s The Truth about Forever?), so if anyone out there is a YA expert, do enlighten me!

Readers: Young Adult

Published: 2012


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