My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon is a contemporary book set in San Francisco. Our two main characters, Dimple and Rishi are Indian-American and this book is such a lovely addition to the more diverse YA reads that we have been getting lately. Dimple’s parents don’t understand her love of coding and desire to do that for a living. They want her to find the Ideal Indian Husband, get married and settle down. To Dimple, that sounds like the most horrifying loss of her identity and freedom, so she’s very surprised when her parents agree to let her attend a coding camp over the summer at SFSU.
Rishi is the perfect eldest son, sure of his duties and ready to fulfill his family’s wishes. He plans to attend MIT in the coming year to major in engineering and computer science. Even though he has other interests, he knows that they are not viable career options and will have to support his family in the future. His parents send him to the same coding camp so that he can meet and get to know his (possible) future wife. It is not an official arranged marriage, but their parents each have decided that they would be good together.
Unlike Rishi, Dimple does not know of her parents’ plan and is entirely freaked out when a stranger comes up to her and addresses her as his future wife. Their first interaction is hilarious and sets the stage for a fantastic book to come. Although Dimple is vehemently opposed to Rishi’s attendance as she feels tricked, she knows that it would be unkind to demand that he leave. The two end up spending more time together and become friends. Their friendship was authentic and quite adorable, even though on the surface they don’t have much in common.
Celia, Dimple’s roommate and Ashish, Rishi’s brother are really nice supporting characters. Celia gets wrapped up in the idea of fitting in and we watch as she learns to be herself. She has a number of rapid changes of opinion and emotion that aren’t entirely explained. Sometimes they seem like they come out of nowhere and there isn’t enough context or backstory to support them. That feels like one aspect of the story that could be improved.
Ashish is initially portrayed as the lazy brother who does not care what his parents want for him. He is most passionate about basketball and spends his time doing things that Rishi does not always approve of. It was nice to see their brotherly bond evolve over the course of the novel. Rishi learns to support his brother and judge him less, as a result, their relationship becomes stronger. They learn more about each other and it was nice to see a positive familial relationship depicted. Even his parents are ultimately supportive as they just want their children to be happy.
I would highly recommend this book to young adult/teen readers who enjoy diverse reads, contemporary novels, character-driven plots and coming of age stories. The characters go on a lovely journey of self-discovery and have a lot of enjoyable (and funny) scenes along the way.