I am trying to read as many of the Own Voices debuts as I can this year. (There are many! Yay! Still not as many as there should be but YAY!) As a result, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon went on my TBR as soon as I knew about it. As I saw more an more people finishing it, I grew more and more excited. That excitement was met and then some. This just may be my favorite YA romance of all time. I have a thing for prickly, ambitious heroines though so my love for this book is understandable. Dimple. Is. The. Best.
Rishi Patel is bound for MIT. Not much interested in web development, he is attending Insomnia Con because his parents thought it would be a good opportunity for him to meet Dimple. The parents have been corresponding and think the two would make a good match. Rishi, who finds tradition and respect for his elders incredibly important, heads off excited to meet his future wife.
The problem is Dimple has no idea. Her parents didn't tell her. When her first encounter with Rishi results in her throwing her iced coffee in his face, things get interesting fast. Assigned as partners, Dimple and Rishi have to work together. As they do, they begin to see each other (and themselves) in new and interesting ways.
Dimple is the best. I mentioned that already, I know. But it bears repeating. She has goals. They do not include finding the "Ideal Indian Husband", no matter what her mother wants. Dimple wants to be web designer. Marriage and children aren't even on her radar. Dimple is fierce, independent, highly intelligent, and stubborn. She also has a vulnerable side. She constantly feels as though she is not living up to her mother's expectations of who she should be. She's the nerdy girl who doesn't dress right and won't wear make-up. Her vulnerability comes out when she is around her peers too as she often feels like she doesn't fit in. Yet she is unafraid of trying to experiences and putting herself out there. Rishi on the other hand has a lot of confidence. He is good at confronting micro-aggressions and outspoken about what he believes in. Except, he has a passion for art and graphic novels he is suppressing in his quest to be the perfect son. Tradition and honor are incredibly important to him so he is following his parents' wishes for him to study Engineering at MIT. The first meeting between Dimple and Rishi isn't the best. He is a complete dork (in the most adorable way), but he freaks her out because she doesn't know who he is or about their parents plans. Dimple's anger is quickly directed toward her parents and she sort of feels sorry for Rishi being dragged into this. She agrees that they can work together and there is no harm in being friends. Particularly as his artistic skills are going to come in handy in animating her app idea.
And so it begins. The relationship development here is so exactly my brand of romance drug that I'm not anywhere close to being unbiased in my assessment of it. Rishi is all in from the start. Completely boggled and bowled over by this vibrant, energetic girl. Dimple is closed off, wary, and ready to run at the slightest provocation. The friendship and partnership that develops between them is wonderful and their banter is fabulous. The more they learn about each other, the more they like. The romance that ends up brewing as a result is my kind of perfect. As in all romances, there is a conflict that arises. I felt that it was in context with how the characters were thinking and feeling throughout the book and made sense for the circumstances surrounding them. And its resolution was worth it.
When Dimple Met Rishi isn't just about the romance though. I appreciated the other relationships in the book as well. The parental relationships both teens had were very well done and showcased how a people-pleaser will deal with his parents and how an independent rebellious one will deal with hers, but it showed that neither way was necessarily all good. Both of them came to see their parents in new lights and work out things that needed to be worked out. Overall it was so lovely to see to sets of parents in a YA novel who just love their kids so much. Rishi's brother plays a rather large role in the book too. He is two years younger and a lot more like Dimple in how he sees their parents Indian traditions. He and Rishi have to work through some of that. I love sibling relationships that are hard work but show the work is worth it. Dimple is an only child, but her relationship with her roommate is important and highlights interesting things in her personality as well as society at large.
I loved all the Indian culture, words, and concepts that were just there in the story. I learned a lot, but am so happy for all the people for who this book will just be a mirror for. I appreciated the view of the Hindu religion this book offered too. It was interesting to watch Dimple and Rishi navigate what they believe, what their parents believe, and how they would integrate that into their lives. (Particularly when it came to sex, which they talked about a bit and thought about a lot before they went ahead with.)
I loved this and will reread it. I recommend to everyone. If you like romance, read this.