Written in the Stars

First Lines: “Naila, I wish you didn’t have to miss the game,” Carla tells me.  “Game?”  I check the road, on the lookout for my mom, before turning to her.

I’ve had my eye on this book for a while, waiting until it was released.  Given that it’s one of many new diverse books (and written by a Pakistani-American), I was totally looking forward to something different.

Naila’s Pakistani heritage means a lot to her, but there are things she wishes she could change.  Her entire life she’s heard that she can pick what she wants to major in in college, but her parents will pick her husband.  No arguments.  Until then, even friendship with a boy is strictly forbidden.  When Naila breaks the rules and falls for Saif, her parents are furious.  Believing that Naila has forgotten her heritage, her parents take the family to Pakistan to reconnect with their roots.  But this vacation becomes a nightmare when Naila realizes her parents have found her a husband.  Despite everything, Naila is cut off from everyone she once knew…and her only hope is that Saif can somehow help.  Can he, before it’s too late?

This easily sailed onto my list of top reads for this year.  Naila is a girl I think most readers can relate to.  She wants to make her parents happy, but she wants them to understand that she’s a person too, a person with desires that differ from her parents’.  I think that’s pretty reasonable.  But to Naila’s parents, she may as well have committed murder.

The story slowly works itself up into this crescendo of a nightmare.  I read this all in like, one sitting because of this.  Everything starts off fairly normal and as the story proceeds, it gets darker and darker and more tragic.  By the end, I was practically vibrating with emotion.

It’s such a startling and real topic.  I mean, this was one of those that hit me hard because you know that somewhere in the world, there are girls that are being forced to marry against their will to please parents, fulfill their cultural norms, or for some other equally awful reason.  (And as Saeed says in her author’s note, forced marriages happen here in the United States too.)  It infuriates me, as a woman, that someone would presume to force me to give control of my life over to someone who I don’t know and don’t trust.  And yet it happens.  A lot.

I found this to be a real cultural wake-up call.  It’s a culture-clash between Naila’s semi-American values and her parents’ solidly Pakistani traditions.  I feel like this allowed me to get a better understanding of their culture.  And it felt really daring that Saeed would give voice to a girl like Naila.  Unfortunately, I don’t think it should be something that feels daring.  Girls like Naila need a voice.

This is a beautiful read about one girl’s struggle to take control of her life.  It’s her fight for her voice when everyone around her tries to silence her.  It’s heartbreaking and emotional and even a bit empowering.  It’s worth it.

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