WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI by Sandhya Menon
Rating: ★ ★ ★
Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?
Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.
The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?
Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.
When Dimple Met Rishi was one of my most anticipated releases of 2017. I’d heard nothing but amazing things from everybody who read ARCs of the book and even after the book had been released, there were a flood of raving reviews. There were a lot of things I loved about this book, but there were also a few things I definitely didn’t love as well.
I really loved Sandhya Menon’s writing. It draws you in right from the very beginning and keeps you interested throughout. At least, it did for me. I always get excited when I love the writing of a debut author, because I know that the writing will be even better in later books. Menon writes in a way that gets you swept up in the story- I felt like I was there with Dimple and Rishi. Menon really integrated Indian culture well into the novel and I know that both Indian and non-Indian people alike will be able to appreciate. It was really fun learning more about Indian culture and religion and I loved the inclusion of Hindi dialogue. I’ll leave some ownvoices reviews linked at the bottom of my review for more insight from people who actually live this experience. The only complaint I have about the writing that I hope will change in the next book is the amount of ableist language.
I really loved a lot of the topics explored throughout WDMR, including but not limited to feminism, defying cultural traditions and parental expectations. Dimple is rebellious and wants to focus more on her career than makeup, beauty and finding the Ideal Indian Husband, which is what Dimple thinks her parents want for her. Rishi, on the other hand, is more traditional and wants to does want to follow the traditions his parents want for him. However, Rishi also has the conflict of wanting to pursue an unstable career (comic book art) whilst his parents want him to do engineering. Menon wove these ideas and struggles so well into the storyline. There was also a lot of feminism in this book. Dimple repeatedly speaks on the misogyny of the expectation that girls in her culture need to care about makeup and looking nice. Further, Rishi consistently calls other male characters out on their misogyny throughout the novel as well. It was refreshing to see a YA novel that incorporated a male feminist character. There were also great discussions on privilege in the STEM field and how Dimple, as an Indian-American, middle class woman would see people getting ahead unfairly because they were born male, white, straight and/or rich.
I absolutely adored Rishi. He is the ultimate soft boy, and we need more YA male main characters like him. He was so respectful and thoughtful and really wanted to make sure he was making other people happy. The thought he put in to trying to win Dimple over, and then making sure she was comfortable before they took anything further in their relationship was just so pure and great to read. His respect for his parents was also amazing, and I just really love how Menon wrote Rishi’s character.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the same love for Dimple that I did for Rishi. I admired her strength, her resilience and her determination- it is so great to read about a young, strong WoC trying to make her way in the STEM field. She really cared about her career, and I think her struggle in trying to juggle wanting a career and also possibly falling in love and the affect that may have on ones career is something many readers will be able to relate to. I liked that she spoke her mind and didn’t let people walk all over her- a lot of people dislike Dimple for the way she thinks about the rich kids at Insomnia Con but I actually admired the strength she had in not lashing back at them when they were terribly rude to her. However, in all of that that I admired about her, there were many times in the book when Dimple was manipulative and abusive towards Rishi, and I can’t condone that.
EDIT: Upon further reflection, I’ve come to understand that I was hasty in using the word “abusive” and I’m sorry for that. I still believe the behaviour was bad behaviour & that there was some manipulation, but by labeling some of the actions “abusive,” I’ve helped to further trivialise *actual* abuse, and again, I’m sorry. I’m going to keep my original review unchanged but add this note. I still stand by my thoughts on certain actions, however I believe abusive was the wrong word to use to describe those actions. I’d like to take this moment to share a twitter thread from somebody who is a survivor of intimate partner violence on their thoughts about the claim that Dimple is abusive. I want to also take this moment to again remind you that I have a couple ownvoices reviews linked at the bottom that I urge you to read. Thank you.
I think most of us can agree that we’ve playfully hit someone on the arm when we’re joking around and that none of us are perfect. But I think there’s a difference between jokingly hitting someones arm to punching someone in the ribs and then when the person complains, try to turn it into something feminist. I understand that Dimple is an impulsive and defensive character, but in this scene I’m going to quote below, I think Menon would have been able to portray Dimple’s defensiveness and impulsiveness with words and not violence that is condoned.
Dimple punched him [Rishi] in the ribs, lighter than she wanted to, but he still winced. “Ow. You know, most girls just slap guys playfully on the arm or something. They don’t actually hurt them.”
“Well, maybe you need to expand your idea of how girls behave,” Dimple replied, grinning.
I am…. so not a fan of this part of the book. Rishi is expressing his pain to Dimple, and Dimple replies that he needs to change his idea of how girls behave? Instead of, y’know, apologising for hurting him???? Okay. I don’t even know why Dimple punched Rishi in this scene, when words would have been fine to show her defensiveness.
Furthermore, I hated the way Dimple treated Rishi at the party. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to push your significant other to do things they’re not uncomfortable with, but only to a certain degree and only if you’re not manipulating them into doing something they’re not comfortable with. Which is what Dimple did. Rishi expressed his discomfort a number of times, and Dimple repeatedly told him he needed to calm down, relax, and pushed Rishi’s boundaries of comfort until he did something he wasn’t comfortable with. After Dimple manipulates Rishi into eating a brownie, the actual quote is “After a pause, Rishi obediently did as she asked. Dimple felt a thrill that he’d actually listened to her. That somehow, some way, she seemed to have power over this boy.” Like, yikes. That does not at all sound healthy.
I think the thing that further pushed me to dislike Dimple was when she invaded Rishi’s privacy, looked through his personal belongings when he wasn’t in the room, without his permission, and took photos to send off to Rishi’s idol. This is brushed over a lot because it’s something that’s “good” for Rishi, but I really didn’t like this part. I guess the next bit could be considered a spoiler, so if you want to skip that, feel free. When Dimple finally admits to Rishi that she invaded his privacy, Rishi (rightly) argues with her and yells at her. I guess people think this is a consequence and is supposed to show that what Dimple did wasn’t okay, but Dimple breaks up with Rishi during this argument, and then at the end of the novel, Rishi forgives her for going through his things because it ultimately turned out to be good for him. End potential spoiler. I think I wouldn’t have as much of a problem with this being portrayed in the novel if it hadn’t gone basically unchecked or brushed over.
One other thing I didn’t like was that one of the side characters fell into the cheating bisexual/pan stereotype. Celia is the only person in the novel shown to be interested in more than one gender, and she’s seen cheating on the person that she’s currently dating. So.
Overall, I had a fun time reading When Dimple Met Rishi and think it’s an important addition to the YA contemporary genre. The writing is solid, the romance is cute for the most part, and there’s amazing representation of Indian culture. As I said previously, there’s also great conversations about feminism & defying cultural and parental expectations. If you’re looking for a cute, cheesy contemporary with a fiesty heroine and soft boy love interest, I would recommend this book for you.
Reviews by ownvoices reviewers
Have you read When Dimple Met Rishi? If so, what were your thoughts?
Thanks so much for reading.