A REVIEW by ALEXA DUNCAN
WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI by SANDHYA MENON
When Dimple Met Rishi is an “older” new release, considering it came out in May of 2017, but after reading it, I knew it had to be the subject of my review.
YA is currently undergoing a transformation of sorts. Contemporary novels, while always popular thanks to the likes of Judy Blume, John Green, and Laurie Halse Anderson, are once again moving to the forefront of the genre. YA finds much of its success by publishing with certain trends. The vampire craze after Twilight is one example. The dystopian boom after The Hunger Games is another. Now, in 2018, we have the rise of #ownvoices contemporary stories.
If you don’t live a great portion of your life on Twitter like I do, you may not be familiar what #ownvoices is. In short, #ownvoices stories are written by marginalized people, featuring marginalized characters. The term “marginalized” extends to race, gender identity, sexual identity, disability, and more. #Ownvoices stories are vitally important because they allow people who have never seen themselves in books before to finally be represented in an authentic way. Though the #ownvoices movement didn’t start with a single book, authors like Angie Thomas (The Hate U Give, which is phenomenal) have been leading the charge.
Enter When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. Menon is Indian-American and her main characters, the titular Dimple and Rishi, are also Indian-Americans, which qualifies it as an #ownvoices book. When Dimple Met Rishi follows Dimple as she spends the summer at Insomnia Con, a camp for aspiring coders, and Rishi, the well-meaning boy she’s unknowingly been set up in an arranged marriage with. Dimple, who is much more “Americanized” than Rishi, is infuriated when she finds out about the marriage plot, while Rishi is more than excited by the prospect.
There was a lot of hype surrounding this book when it first came out. I saw it all over social media and read nothing but gushing reviews. In the few weeks it took for the hype to die down, more and more critical reviews started to trickle in. Many people have complained that the plot is too “stereotypical” and that this book is just like every other romantic comedy out there. I disagree. What sets When Dimple Met Rishi apart is that it doesn’t feature your standard white characters falling in love.
Dimple and Rishi are Indian-American and the book reflects that. Much of the book is about how their ethnic backgrounds have shaped their experiences as teenagers. Dimple, for example, is always pressured by her mother to wear makeup and get married—neither of which she wants to do. Rishi, as the oldest child in his family, is expected to follow in his father’s footsteps and provide for his future wife. Though Indian culture isn’t the main focus of this book, it still serves as an important part to the story. When Dimple Met Rishi wouldn’t exist without the characters being Indian-American. You cannot simply switch them out with white characters and still have the same story, which is where When Dimple Met Rishi really succeeds.
Despite the somewhat mixed reviews, I really enjoyed this book and what it had to offer. I would have liked it more if the STEM aspects were a bigger part of the story. However, that didn’t dampen my enjoyment overmuch. When Dimple Met Rishi is important because everyone should have “stereotypical” love stories that represent them. It is my hope that the publishing industry continues to embrace these narratives in the years to come.