What happens if you take a typical boy-meets-girl YA plot structure and give it a cultural twist? That’s exactly what we get in When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, and it is absolutely delightful. When Indian-American teen Dimple Shah convinces her uber-traditional parents to send her to a co-ed computer coding camp for six weeks before she leaves for college, she can’t believe her luck. But when Rishi Patel approaches her at the camp and introduces himself as her future husband, she discovers that luck wasn’t the only force behind her good fortune.
I was in a months-long reading rut when I picked up this book. I was immediately gripped by Dimple’s cynical worldview and witty sense of humor. As a modern young feminist, she struggles with her parents’ traditional expectations. She wants to go to college and pursue a career in web development, but her mother considers college a mere stepping stone to finding Dimple the “Ideal Indian Husband”. When her parents agree to allow her to attend Insomnia Con (a coding camp that could give her the chance to meet her idol, developer Jenny Lindt), Dimple thinks her mother is finally accepting her career aspirations. What she doesn’t know is that Rishi Patel, the boy her parents have secretly arranged for her to marry, will also be in attendance.
Rishi is the yin to Dimple’s yang. He’s well-aware of his parents’ plan to set him up with Dimple, and he can’t wait for their future together. He loves his heritage and embraces his parents’ expectations. His younger brother doesn’t care about their family’s culture or traditions, so Rishi feels pressure to be the perfect eldest son. He’s a passionate artist, and while his true love is his art, he suppresses it in favor of what he considers more “realistic” opportunities. Where Dimple is impulsive and sarcastic and wants to buck tradition, Rishi is patient and polite and wants to make his parents happy.
While the general premise of the book – boy meets girl, girl hates boy, boy and girl form grudging friendship, etc. – isn’t anything groundbreaking in the world of YA, the specific circumstances of our lead characters make it special. I loved the diversity of the characters and thought Dimple and Rishi’s individual struggles to balance tradition and the expectations of their families with their own personal desires provided a refreshing new take on what could be an otherwise stale plot.
I really enjoyed this book, but, like all novels, it did have a few issues. In the latter half of the story, it felt a little like someone had hit fast forward to skip to the next major plot point, and I felt that there was some crucial character and relationship development that got skipped in the process.
Beyond Dimple and Rishi, many of the characters felt fairly one-dimensional. The “villains” of the story (for lack of a better word) are some rich kids who really didn’t seem to have any motivation for being bad guys. They’re rude frat-boy types who really only exist to move the plot along and provide a bit of extra conflict. There’s also a minor romance subplot between two of the secondary characters that felt really random and a little out of place.
All of those issues were pretty minor, though, and they didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book. When Dimple Met Rishi was 150% worth the read. If you’re looking for something cute and light, or if you want to add some more diverse material to your TBR list, you should definitely check it out.