Tag Archives: culture

Book Discussion: The Rearranged Life


 The Rearranged Life by Annika Sharma


Nithya is a smart, driven college senior with a plan: She wants to be a doctor. Her family has worked hard to give her all the best of American life – the top tutors, the best education, and even the freedom to live as both an American girl and an Indian immigrant daughter. Her only restriction is that she must marry a boy from her traditional Indian-American community. And Nithya has no problem with this – she’s always loved and respected her parents, and believes that her dreams and their dreams can align. Until she meets James, the sweet handsome kid in her chemistry class. As Nithya and James fall in love, Nithya must face (for the first time) the fact that her desires could destroy everything her parents have worked for.

rearranged life

heartRomance Score: Good Effort 

While I wasn’t super impressed with the way these two initially connected,  I really liked how the romance between Nithya and James built throughout the story. It felt like a true “college romance” for me – with a lot of studying, late night hangouts, and even a reference to Penn State’s “Thon”. I also loved the initial connections between Nithya and James’s family. I would have loved to see the next chapter of this romance, but maybe there will be a part two? Please?

Feminist Score: Between You’re Trying and Good EffortRosie

Nithya knows what she wants, and will do what she can to get it. At the same time, she maintains respect for the traditions of her family and the sacrifices that they’ve made to give her opportunities. My only qualm is that I thought the initial meeting between the two – where Nithya was almost date raped – was a little too “damsel in distress” for me.
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Diversity Score: A+ Success

I loved that this story really dug into the challenges that (some) Indian-American girls face when dating boys from outside their communities. The novel really captures the nuances of the struggle. Nithya faces a few challenges here – not only does she not want to disappoint her parents, but she also doesn’t want to take advantage of their kindness. They have let their daughter assimilate with mainstream American culture with only a single restriction- and now she’s broken it. And in breaking that, Nithya faces the challenges of both no longer fitting into the traditional mold for a desi girl, but also trying to how to keep her culture intact in a potential interracial marriage… all at the age of 21.

As an Indian-American girl (who recently married a not very Indian-American, very adorable Caucasian boy), I really loved the perspective of this story. We need more stories talking about the lives of Indian-Americans (and all minorities) with respect and nuance for the traditions of each culture and the challenges them.

wow icon

Awesome Factor: Between Good Effort & A+ Success

While my life doesn’t exactly reflect Nithya’s, I loved finding a story about Indian-Americans that reflected the world that my friends and I live in. I have a few small qualms with it (some of the dialogue seems scripted and a few plot points weak), but these are minor issues of a first-time author. I was thoroughly impressed, and can’t wait to read anything else Annika Sharma writes.

Favorite Character

Anisha. First – There is finally a character with my name in a book!!! And second – She is sweet, funny and a good contrast to her serious sister.

Favorite Line

“… I made no apologies for who I am. He says it’s his favorite thing about me and though I won’t admit it, it’s my favorite thing about me, too. And when you find someone who values the same things in yourself that you do , there’s a burst of happiness that’s hard to put out. We shine together and separately.”

 Fun Author Fact

According to her blog, Annika wrote The Rearranged Life in the month before starting graduate school. That is some insane (Nithya-like) productivity.

She also has a crush on Emma Watson and the Duchess of Cambridge, which means she has excellent taste.

Read This Next

Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan (our review here).  Leila is the only Iranian-American in her ultra-rich, preppy high school… and she also happens to like girls. What happens when a new beautiful and wild student joins her school?

Post Author: Anisha


Anisha loves books, Gilmore Girls, and her Kuerig. She’s been reading mainstream YA since she was actually a young adult, and Jess is helping her expand her horizons with more diverse, interesting books from newer authors.

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Filed under Contemporary, Romance

Book Discussion: Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel

Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan


Leila feels like an outsider. She is the only Iranian-American at her ultra-rich, preppy private high school. She is also attracted to women, but is worried that her conservative immigrant family and her high school friends would not accept her. One day, a beautiful, wild new girl named Saskia joins the class. Saskia is full of adventure and fun – and Leila quickly falls head over heels for her.

heartRomance Score: Good Effort

I loved this novel for how high school it is. Leila has a normal school-girl crush on the popular, wild new kid, who just happens to be a girl. I related very well to her feelings, and loved reliving the ups and downs of high school. I wish I had seen a little more of the romance towards the end of the book. Perhaps a sequel?

FRosieeminist Score: You’re Trying and Good Effort  

Leila is still in high school, and not battling big cultural change or fighting rebellions. I liked this book a lot, but I don’t see it being a game-changer on the feminist front. That being said, check out the diversity score.

diversity people circle iconDiversity Score: A+ Success  

This story matters. We need more stories that tell new perspectives from a fresh point of view. They help us process our world and find comfort in other characters/people like us. Leila is a gay, American-Iranian high school student with her first real schoolgirl crush. I know there are gay high school students out there who need a story like this. And while there are many great resources for coming out to your parents, the challenges of immigrant parents may be slightly different. This book is inspiring, and I hope it finds its way into the hands of those who need Leila. [Note from Jess- I’ve seen on the interwebs that the following may come up in the book: an unwanted outing of a character, assault, and biphobia]

wow icon Awesome Factor: Good Effort 

Leila’s story, especially the parts with her family, are sweet and well-written. The book is a fast read, but a good one.

Favorite Character

Leila. She’s sweet and confused and so concerned with her family. I just want to give her a hug.

Favorite Line

“Act cool. Just act cool and don’t let on that you think she is gorgeous”

I love how hard Leila tries to hide her crush and how bad she is at it. As someone who has the same problem, I can relate.

Is this worth a book hangover?

Yes. The story is a fun, quick read with a new perspective. It tackles first crushes in a high-school appropriate way and is definitely worth the read.  

Fun Author Fact

This story may be semi-autobiographical. According to her website, Sara too was a closeted Iranian-American at a rich prep school. I wonder if her Saskia ever found out about her crush.

Read This Next

Forever by Judy Blume. It’s the story of first love. And while it was written in the 1970s, it’s still very easy to relate to it.

Post Author: Anisha

AnishaAnisha adores YA romance – and thinks that all love stories should start on the beach and end with the first kiss. Jess is helping her expand her horizons with more diverse, interesting books from newer authors.  


Filed under Contemporary, High School, Romance