This was ruined for me by the writing style :\ I feel like it actually walks the line between being written in a style that just wasn’t for me, and actually being poorly put together. Which is a shame! Because this premise has real meat to it.
The titular Rukhsana Ali is a Bengali-American teenager, the daughter of Bengali immigrants, and also identifies as a lesbian. She has a girlfriend she’s in love with who is white, and they plan to go away to California for college, where Rukhsana feels she will finally be in a position to live openly as a lesbian. But when Rukhsana is caught by her parents with her girlfriend, she is forcibly outed, and sent away to Bangladesh to live with relatives, where it soon becomes clear that her family has plans for her that very much do not fit with her own for what her life should look like going forward.
Ariana is also frustrating because she is apart of one of the other major problems I had with this book, in that she and Rukhsana’s other two best friends are utterly unsympathetic as to why Rukhsana does not want to come out. They just don’t seem to have it in them, despite being supposedly with-it teenagers in the 2010s, to imagine that something truly terrible could happen to Rukhsana if she comes out of the closet. She has told them that her parents are really strict and come from a culture that doesn’t condone homosexuality, and this in a country where white parents not infrequently kick their teenagers out of their houses for coming out. They should know better, and it’s a huge issue that they do not, in terms of credibility in this author’s writing.
The third issue is a spoiler. SPOILERS I didn’t like that she killed off Rukhsana’s fiance. I also didn’t like how quickly her parents turned around from being incredibly unreasonable and unable to understand her sexuality to fully accepting it and throwing parties and being full-on Rainbow Parents. WE don’t even get to see them have the moment of realization, as Rukhsana is on a plane when it happens END SPOILERS.
I also just really didn’t like the way the actual prose was put together. It felt obvious and dull, and if it weren’t for the glimmers of interesting insight into things like Bengali culture and food, and occasional moments where Rukhsana bonds with another human being in a recognizable way, this would have been a one star read for me. So, all in all, this was a miss.
Read Harder Challenge 2021: Read a realistic YA book not set in the U.S., UK, or Canada.