Hello everyone, and welcome back to a surprise Sunday post!
I keep saying my post frequency might change a bit, and at least for this one week, that’s actually happening! I was lucky enough to get my hands on this very anticipated book prior to its release date, so I thought it’d be worth it to get this review out for you before it comes out on May 30th.
So without further ado, let’s talk about it!
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
If the (super cute) cover and title didn’t make it obvious: this is a contemporary romance! You guessed it!
The premise here is that Dimple, enlightened feminist computer-programming obsessed Indian-American teen, wants to go check out a summer session for app developers. And her parents agree, because they intend for her to go there and meet the Ideal Indian Husband they intend for her: Rishi, a hopeless romantic who’s stoked to woo his future wife.
This is very much a bad first impressions, opposites attract kind of book where the main thing Dimple and Rishi have in common to start with is their culture, but that’s a powerful starting point when they’re surrounded by the white and privileged. (This is definitely a strong suit of the book.) The two are hemmed into working on a project together (of course), so as time goes on, they also discover their inner dorks together and that they like to encourage each other in their Big Dreams, which is sweet.
It’s honestly a very cute book with some great insights into Indian-American teenagerhood for white readers like me who are pretty clueless, so I enjoyed the read the whole time.
But it also kind of coasts by on the cuteness of the premise and speeds a bit from scene to scene. We really don’t get to know that much about the app development, which is a shame; I would’ve loved to have spent more time seeing how Dimple and Rishi worked as a team on their project, and it could’ve done a lot to develop them as a good pair and separately. The book kind of just dissolves into being totally about their dates and interactions, and that felt particularly off because Dimple was so devoted to the summer project they were doing, and was visiting a place she didn’t really know, so it would’ve been great to see her touristing more. (And getting more coffee! And possibly using it to take down creeps!)
While the two do end up feeling like a good couple, both Dimple and Rishi don’t feel totally fully-fledged as individuals, even though they both get to be perspective characters. What are they into, other than their Big Dreams and their rejection or acceptance of their culture? I wanted to know this, especially about Dimple, who had such a strong voice in the beginning. And the secondary characters feel a little bit prop-like in their lack of development; I wish Celia and Ashish were more fleshed out.
There was definitely some awkwardness in Celia’s plot. I appreciated that she was trying to fit in and didn’t have a strong sense of self, but that also made it difficult to get a grasp on why to like her as a character, other than that Dimple did. There were also some iffy moments where her story felt like it was going down the route of slut-shaming, although thankfully the story tried to stay in the lines of “doing what you’re comfortable with,” but it still felt…like Celia presented this cautionary tale I wasn’t totally feeling.
The other main secondary character, Ashish, comes off as mostly a foil for Rishi, just kind of…there to be unlike him, but still his brother. And I wish we got more from him than that.
This was reasonably predictable, but that’s hardly worth mentioning since every contemporary romance is? It does have some plot twists, so it’s by far not the worst offender, but every once in a while I read a contemporary romance that does really surprise me. That was not the case this time, so if that’s what you’re looking for, nah: this is fairly straight-up rom-com-type material.
Ultimately, I enjoyed reading this one, and I think it gave me some insights I wouldn’t have had otherwise. But especially given how hyped this one is, I felt a little bit unfulfilled. I feel like it’s an instance where the story had great bone structure, but not a lot of meat on those bones to dig into, if that makes any sense. (I’m sorry; I can’t come up with a vegetarian version of this metaphor for Rishi off the top of my head. But yes.)
If you’re looking for a quick, cute romance with some diversity, then this might be the summer read for you! And there obviously aren’t a lot of contemporary romances with Indian-American reads, so I’d say it’s worth giving a whirl if you’re a contemporary romance fan in general. (I did quite like Geekerella with an Indian-American male lead, but that definitely doesn’t have any of the cultural insight that’s available here.)
This wasn’t my favourite, but anything three or better means I’d read a sequel, so.
What are some of your favourite summer-ready contemporary romances? Do you have any great diverse romance recommendations? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll speak to you again soon!