There’s so much hype about When Dimple Met Rishi circulating in the online blogging community and among rabid YA readers. I did have a grain of skepticism about how it might actually turn out for me when I cracked it open especially because time and time again what is popular is not necessarily correlated with what is quality. I’m not into rom-coms but the concept of a young Indian American girl, straining against what she believes archaic traditions while trying to pursue her dream in coding and web design REALLY appealed to me.
I absolutely love comedians Mindy Kaling’s and Aziz Ansari’s commentary on their own “Indian-ness” and combating stereotypes in both of their respective books: Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Why Not Me? And Ansari’s Modern Love as well as their tv shows The Mindy Project and Master of None.
When Dimple Met Rishi is not remotely like either of those programs or novels. Instead it’s a lukewarm coming of age that wants to be more serious and edgy than it actually is. In the first couple chapters it was humorous to see the dysfunctional relationship between Dimple and her mother– both women have very different values, goals, and ideas about what it means to be successful. Her mom has always been fixated on the idea of Dimple getting hitched to an “Ideal Indian Husband”, a filthy rich, overachieving, career man, and never really considers Dimple’s coding dreams.
WDMR begins the summer vacation before Dimple’s Freshman year at college. She’s MINDBLOWN when her parents let her go to Insomnia Con. A prestigious and accelerated orgy of all things tech for college students at nearby San Francisco State University. She’s already been accepted to Stanford and is an eager-beaver to get going on designing her own app — the ultimate goal of the Con– and meeting her girl crush and idol, Jenny Lindt.
This academic sleepover camp isn’t just a chance for Dimple to start taking action on her passion in a more competitive environment, but it turns out her ‘rents were so supportive because they’ve arranged a little something special….Special as in, hooking Dimple up with fellow teen and incoming college freshman smarty pants, Rishi. A boy, who Dimple’s parents have had an agreement with his parents for him to marry Dimple.
Yes marry her. The engagement has been longstanding with the Patel family ever since Dimple and Rishi were kids. But here’s the rub. Dimple has no freaking idea whatsoever. She also has never even really met the guy. Hence the title of the book, oh Sandhya Menon, you cheeky broad!
Their first encounter doesn’t go well, and Dimple clings to that mishap whenever she thinks of Rishi. Which she does. A LOT. Dimple is judgey and crabby and has a tendency to diss Rishi and complain about Rishi and her other peers. The story about an academically minded young woman joining forces with like-minded young adults to create something she’s passionate about seems to go POOF and fall by the wayside, and instead Dimple’s entire POV is angsty. Her commentary about a snooty trio So-Cal “Aberzombie” teens is a laugh at first, but gets stale.
The side characters in WDMR are neglected to a fault. I would’ve liked the female friendship between Dimple and her Dominican friend and roomie, Celia to have been more pronounced. (Diversity with a capital D is the name of the game here, as we’re described about the characters races often, which is why I point it out here.) We’re told in the beginning that Celia and Dimple have been chatting online for months but when they’re actually together there’s not a whole heck of a lot of bond between the two or a sense that they’d spoken or know each other, other than the superficial stuff. What the what! In the almost 300 pages I read of WDMR they had BARELY hung out and they never felt like truly living girls– just words on a page.
Dimple’s character was problematic as well. She’s a certified jerk. For someone embarking on a STEAM career and trying to combat stereotypes she’s pretty small minded and petty. She’s also very handsy. And I don’t mean in terms of groping Rishi or excessive PDA or anything, but in that she’s physically aggressive time and time again! Jabbing, slapping, elbowing, punching Rishi in the ribs. In just about every chapter she takes a swing at Rishi. I’m not sure what the author was intending with this: maybe for it to be funny? Hahaha walloping some dudes ribs is always good for a laugh, yeah? More likely than not it’s meant to enforce that Dimple isn’t just a “typical” girl. That she’s “tough” and doesn’t take BS. As does her open hatred for fashion, cosmetics, and anything remotely “girlie”. It’s very juvenile perspective to have.
Wearing makeup and cute, flirty dresses and skirts doesn’t make me any less of an intellectual than girls who don’t wear them. Enhancing my favourite features like my green eyes with mascara and showing off my long and toned legs that I exercise for on a daily basis doesn’t mean that I’m shallow. It’s not a stretch to say I have zero connection with Dimple.
Along with the character catastrophes, WDMR’s greatest fault is the lack of narrative. The plot starts off promising enough, but quickly fizzles out and just becomes a will-they-won’t-they seesaw battle of wills between Rishi and Dimple. Only thing is that’s putting it loosely. There’s not a whole heck of a lot of action or tension or much going on. Insomnia Con is swept by the wayside and we’re trapped in Rishi’s and Dimple’s thought bubbles, which ENTIRELY concerns them crushing on slash fighting their feelings for one another. Yuck. I did not sign up for a soapy teen drama. What little story there was in WDMR sputtered to a halt come page 257 when Rishi’s athletic little bro, Ashish was about to give Rishi and Dimple some Bollywood dancing lessons for the Insomnia Con talent show. Yup. A talent show. What the what. Annnnd with that I was done. WDMR met the library book return slot.
What I wanted in When Dimple Met Rishi was a fizzy, frothy and summery read, like a soda pop on the menu at a bustling diner of books. Instead as far as fountain drinks go if this novel was served in a glass it’d be tap water. Lukewarm tap water. This is a rambly, plotless, disaster featuring underdeveloped side characters and a main character who finger-points and complains and doesn’t do much else. Not recommended.