Review of When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
When Dimple Met Rishi
by Sandhya Menon
When Dimple Met Rishi is just plain adorable. It shouldn’t work, but it does.
I picked this up on a whim while at Chapters, because it was in a display of new releases and I’d heard a little but of buzz about it from Twitter. I needed something nice and “light” compared to, say, Walkaway, but obviously didn’t want to go so far as to read a book that didn’t start with W or didn’t have an orange-themed cover. So this was the logical choice.
Sandhya Menon has created what is essentially a very formulaic YA romantic comedy, yet she has imbued with so much genuine humour and clever characterization that it just feels good. This isn’t the most original or even the best-written book I’ve read lately, but it’s definitely one of the most enjoyable. It has all the feels, in the best possible way.
I was surprised, when I went to read other reviews, how many people hate Dimple. I guess I grok it, but to me she’s just … human. She’s young and headstrong but also inexperienced; she has these very intense, focused goals, and when she discovers she wants something (romance) that she had told herself she wasn’t looking for at this moment, she struggles to process and integrate this into her life. So of course she’s going to make mistakes.
I didn’t actually care about the romance all that much. This might be an odd thing to say for a book that is literally romance, but, well, that’s generally how I roll with these books anyway. I couldn’t care less whether they end up together. The whole app competition was much more interesting for me, and I do wish we had seen more of that. The structure of the romance, its various reversals, etc., felt pretty standard and easy to anticipate. That’s not bad, of course, but if you are looking for something that is going to have you on the edge of the seat with twists and turns you won’t see coming … When Dimple Met Rishi is not it.
Instead, this book is heartwarming. It doesn’t offer easy answers—despite Dimple and Rishi seemingly being fated to be together, given all the various events that conspire to push them in that direction, Menon offers us no promises about whether they will remain together. This is a message I’m seeing more and more in YA books, and I’m liking it. I’m liking the acknowledgement that 17- and 18-year-olds don’t need their whole life sorted out and the recognition that it’s possible the person you’re dating and/or attracted to at this age is not your soulmate or the person you’re going to spend the majority of your life with. Dimple and Rishi have some good conversations about these types of things, as they dance around whether or not they should try being together in the face of the reasons they shouldn’t—and it’s these conversations, rather than the standard plot points that bookend them, that I find so good.
There’s this moment prior to the climax where everything blows up. I won’t spoil it, but basically Dimple has a false epiphany and pushes Rishi away, as one half of the love interests are wont to do in these things. The resulting fallout might seem a little contrived, but the entire process of Dimple’s false epiphany makes so much sense to me. She isn’t have a crisis about whether or not she loves Rishi. When you construct your sense of self around being one thing, and then someone comes along and shows you that you might want something that is not part of that identity, it’s really a crisis of self. (I suppose Rishi went through something similar, but to be honest, even though he shared the narration of the book, I never felt as close to him as I did to Dimple.)
I said at the opening of this review that When Dimple Met Rishi shouldn’t work, but it does. That’s because the more I think about it, the more I can recognize the formula at work here. Normally that would detract from my experience. So when I keep highlighting that here, it isn’t criticism—it’s praise that in spite of this, Menon’s writing and characterization captivates and entertains. This is how you breathe new life into old tropes. I can’t comment on the representation of Indian culture or of being the children of immigrants from India, but I like that characters with these backgrounds at least show up in this type of story. I also really like that Menon attempts to give Dimple a female friendship that is resilient despite numerous rough patches.
When Dimple Met Rishi energized me. It refreshed me. There’s things that it could have done better, parts that could be smoother or better constructed. It’s not necessarily the right book forever, but it was the right book for right now, and sometimes that matters most.