Title: Written in the Stars (2015)
Author: Aisha Saeed
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Cultural
Extent: 277 pages
Review: OH MY GOD. Let me tell you what it feels like to read this book in one sentence: just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, it did.
So here’s the story. Naila’s immigrant parents only want the best for her, and to them, this means they get to decide who she’s going to marry. Until then, dating—or even friendship with a boy—is forbidden. When they find out that Naila has broken their rule by dating Saif, they take her to Pakistan to visit relatives and remind her not to forget her roots. But what started out as a vacation turns into a disaster when plans change and Naila found herself thrust into an arranged marriage with another Pakistani boy… right now.
I started the book all relaxed, and every chapter sent me into higher stress than the previous one. Every chapter I think, oh man this is terrible, I hope things get better, but no—it just gets worse. And worse. And worse. By the end, I was so emotionally exhausted and I couldn’t stop myself feeling horrified about what I just read and giving a choked laughter at the same time because it was starting to feel ridiculous. All I can say is that there’s not a single dull moment, and that’s a good thing in my book.
Overall, this book is fast-paced and intense. Saeed lay it on real thick with the drama, and Naila doesn’t deserve anything that has happened to her, most of all not her overbearing, controlling, narcissistic parents. At the end of the book I was just so, so glad that it was over, because at least she wasn’t completely suffering anymore.
As a character, Naila is relatable, her fears and wants familiar to us, and you really just want her to be happy. While there is romance in this book, this isn’t really a love story. It’s more of a… life story, and I think it’s an incredibly important life story to read. Saeed’s writing style is easy, fast-paced, and not super flowery or descriptive. Each scene moves right into the next without much preamble, and I felt like I was taken on a very wild ride. I just couldn’t stop reading because I had to know what happens next.
In case I’m not clear enough, I’m actually commending this book. Many Young Adult books out there are based on completely fictional ideas, but this one tackles a real issue although the characters are fictional. Arranged marriages are still a very real thing in some parts of the world, many of them forced arranged marriages, and it’s a shame that we don’t hear enough about its impacts.
Written in the Stars might not be a feel-good read, but it’s eye-opening, it’s intense, it’s realistic, and it tackles a very serious issue that most of us ‘on the outside’ have never ever experienced. I hope to see more books like this.