By Sheba Karim
To cure her post–senior year slump, made worse by the loss of her aunt Sonia, Noreen is ready to follow her mom on a gap year trip to New Delhi, hoping India can lessen her grief and bring her voice back.
In the world’s most polluted city, Noreen soon meets kind, handsome Kabir, who introduces her to the wonders of this magical, complicated place. With Kabir’s help—plus Bollywood celebrities, fourteenth-century ruins, karaoke parties, and Sufi saints—Noreen begins to rediscover her joyful voice.
But when a family scandal erupts, Noreen and Kabir must face complicated questions in their own relationship: What does it mean to truly stand by someone—and what are the boundaries of love?
I picked up this book to read after hearing the author was a huge Gilmore Girls fan. I’m also a fan of the show and so I was excited to see what Sheba Karin could do with a story where the relationship between the mother and daughter mirrored the relationship between Lorelai and Rory.
I wasn’t disappointed as the mother/daughter relationship is nicely done and very much in the same vein of Gilmore Girls. Noreen and Ruby have an open, honest relationship. Ruby struggles in her relationship with her parents more for cultural reasons than monetary. The conversation between Noreen and Rudy is quick, witty and fun. But that’s where the Gilmore Girl parallel ends.
After the death of a loved one, both girls travel to India for a summer. Aaand this is where I got lost. I embraced the total idea of being transported to a place I’ve never been and experience a culture I know little about. And perhaps because I knew so little is why I was so lost. The imagery and scenery was beautifully written. However, I kept needing to go to Google to find out what a phrase meant, or what a cultural reference was. Having to do that as often as I did broke up my reading that I got more than just a little distracted. I do want to learn more about the Indian culture as I find it to be meaningful and lovely and full of so much color but perhaps I needed to do that before I tried reading this book.
There was just no character development for me. I didn’t see Noreen grow or evolve at all during the story, or what I read of the story. The storyline seemed consist of little more than her meeting up with Kabir and his friends over and over. I did get that she was grieving. In fact that theme was very nicely done. The way one’s world irrevocably changes after the death of a loved one was threaded evenly into the story and in a very realistic way.
The underlying political themes flat out annoyed me. I don’t mind LGBTQ+ themes or themes of racism as they’re important for us to read. However, I felt like they had nothing to do with the story. They weren’t a main focus and did nothing to further the plot along. In fact, for me, they were distracting.
I wish I could have loved this. I wanted to. But in the end, I couldn’t finish it due to lack of storyline, no character development and a flat support cast.