Despite my recent abundance of ya contemporary romance reviews, I am not usually drawn to the genre. I was persuased to read When Dimple met Rishi up due to the hype surrounding its release and the following glowing reviews, which advertised it as an incredibly cute romance that positively portrayed Indian culture and arranged marriages. However, what I encountered was a book that had almost everything I hated about Eleanor and Park, except less cheesy and more infuriating.
Dimple just graduated high school and dreams on becoming a web developer, but her parents are more focused on finding the “ideal Indian husband” for her. As such, when they allow her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers, she is thrilled, though unaware that Rishi, her seignated future husband, is going there as well.
My main issue with this book was Dimple. She was supposed to be an independent, strong woman, and that was done very heavy handedly. There is a different between having agency and ambition and acting in a self-righteous, controlling, selfish, and impulsive manner, while masquerading it for independency. Dimple treated Rishi horribly, and judged everyone she interacted with, specially relating to makeup, vanity and what not. It was like her entire personally was centered around “not being like other girls”.
“Blinking, she looked at Isabelle. In spite of the chill outside, she was dressed in a barely-there strapless blue dress that complimented her tanning bed complexion”
And that wasn’t the only other characterization that was made in detriment of other characters. Rishi, despite being possibly the most likeable person in the book, is constantly being compared to his brother and the other rich kids, for being more mature, more humble, and less of a douchebag overall. And it’s made really obvious that it’s supposed to be a comparision.
There was an entire group of people who was antagonized with the purpose of creating tension and making Rishi look superior, as if he was the only good rich person in existence. The so-called “Aberzombies” were exactly like a clique of rich people from a teen movie about self-acceptance. Cliche, stupid, and lacking in depth.
I guess the author had to create some conflict because of the absolute lack of plot. Seriously, there’s no arc or main premise. It’s literally “When Dimple met Rishi”, and then… random stuff happens? There are 5 chapters surrounding the dinner where Dimple slut-shames Isabelle. 5. And I’m not even counting the moment they were invited, just the actual evening.
The emphasis is placed entirely on the romance, which was less cheesy than I expected, but still cheesy nonetheless. It didn’t become the “I lied to you but I now like you” trope that’s present in How to lose a man in 10 days, 10 things I hate about you, amongst others, so the beggining of the relationship was tolerable. But when they became an official couple, things only got worse, because of the way Dimple treated Rishi. She overreacted to everything, pushed his boundaries (serious lack of consent here!), and physically assaulted him several times. But that’s okay, because she is a woman! A strong woman! Right?
I am extremely disappointed in this book. I wasn’t expecting it to be more than a summer romance story, but this couldn’t even do that properly. I can’t think of one good thing to say about it besides the representation and the sparse jokes about American prejudices.