As I said earlier, I didn’t make it to the autograph session, but I did run into Aisha Saeed by chance. She is the nicest person ever. She offered to sign my book for me when she heard I couldn’t make it later for autographs.
Boy does this book not pull its punches. Okay, here we go with the review.
Book: Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed
Genre: Young Adult, Realistic (Unfortunately) Fiction
Recommendation: While I definitely want everyone to buy it, I need to issue a trigger warning for abuse of any kind (emotional, physical, sexual)
Run-On Sentence Synopsis: Naila is a Pakistani-American girl on the cusp of graduating high school and going away to college where she will finally be free to date her boyfriend, Saif, whom she’s been seeing in secret because her parents have always planned to arrange her marriage, and when they (inevitably) find out about Saif they bundle up Naila and her brother, Imran, to go to Pakistan for what they say is a month but what turns out to be much longer, and Naila finds herself caught up in a forced marriage and a fight for her freedom.
Positive Feedback: As I did for George, I will describe this book in one word. That word is “Impactful.” I felt my gut twisting, my fingernails biting into my palms, tears in my eyes, my heart racing. I couldn’t believe that this book was based on the reality that so many women face. I wanted to believe it was completely fictional, with no basis in reality at all. I wanted that so badly. But, unfortunately, this is realistic fiction all the way. It’s important to note that this book is not a denunciation of anyone’s culture, nor is it against arranged marriages. Thanks to this novel, I now understand the difference between arranged marriages and forced marriages. The latter is the one that breaks my heart, and it is the subject of the novel. This was an expertly crafted book that had emotion and heart, but (as I said) it did not once pull its punches. Naila’s struggle feels all too real, to the point where it was difficult for me to continue, but I felt compelled to. I was clawing my way through, desperate to find the happy ending I was hoping would appear after all the turmoil. And then it was there, and I felt relief wash over me. This novel is gripping. It doesn’t let you go, and it doesn’t go easy on you. Truth be told, I will never reread this book; it would be too difficult. But I am very glad that I read it, and I will cherish my signed copy always.
Constructive Criticism: My one critique has to do with Naila’s desire to stay with her boyfriend, Saif, despite her parents’ belief in arranged marriages. The problem is that the novel begins with them already together as a couple, so there was no way for me to see a build up of their chemistry. Naila, as the narrator, told more than showed the relationship. I wish Saeed had taken a little more time with them at the beginning, or at least shown a couple more flashbacks than she did. The extreme version of this issue is Stephenie Meyer saying, “I’m the author and I say these two people love each other! You’ll believe it because I said so!” (And then I imagine she mashes the two characters’ faces together like a seven-year-old would with Barbie and Ken dolls. Mwah Mwah Mwah!) Saeed’s writing is way better than Meyer’s, of course, so I did believe the relationship between Naila and Saif. What little I saw worked for sure, but if I’d gotten more chances to get used to them as a couple, their inevitable forced separation would have carried that much more weight.
I don’t know what book I’m doing next time! I think there will be three more reviews total. It depends on what mood I’m in and when I find time to read. See you then!