Do you ever feel like you’re the last person on earth to read a certain book? When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon has been on my radar for ages now, but when it first appeared, I was deep into reading down my massive Goodreads TBR list and didn’t want to deviate from it too much in case I lost momentum (so glad I’m getting to the end of that project!). And although I was crazy backed up with books last week, this book still managed to find its way into my library pile, because I have zero self-control at the library these days (I mean, there are worse places to not be able to say no, right?).
Dimple Shah has never felt like she fit in. Not at school where she gravitates toward tech stuff, not with her family, where her mother is fixated solely on finding her the Ideal Indian Husband (and not at all on Dimple’s potential for a fabulous career as a programmer). It’s a surprise to her when her parents allow her to attend Insomnia Con, a computer coding camp held at a university during the summer between the end of her senior year of high school and the beginning of her college life at Stanford. Dimple’s ready to take on the coding world, creating an app that will change lives and that will get her some attention from her coding inspiration, Jenny Lindt.
Rishi Patel is a traditional rule-following eldest son, bound and determined to live out his parents’ dreams for him even if it costs him his own dreams. Family means something, right? Not that his younger brother Ashish gets that. But Rishi, whose talents are better suited to art, is off to Insomnia Con. He’s on a mission…one that Dimple isn’t at all aware of, and that will begin with her throwing iced coffee in his face. After a rough start, Dimple and Rishi set a few ground rules that allow them to develop at least the start of a friendship, one that slowly blossoms into something else. But Dimple has plans, plans that don’t involve marriage (maybe not ever!), and she’s not entirely sure if Rishi is the kind of guy who can let her be herself…or even fully be himself.
When Dimple Met Rishi is about identity, the one we’re born with, the one our family assigns us, and all the different identities we wear and develop through life. I was surprised to see the negative reviews of this on Goodreads. While Dimple could be abrasive at times, I have yet to meet a person who can’t (I, ahem, kind of have an enormous sarcastic streak that catches some people off-guard, because I appear so nice and sweet!). And other reviewers are constantly mentioning Dimple bemoaning how she’s not like other girls. I didn’t read that at all. What I saw in Dimple was a girl who struggles with what she feels her mother and her community expects from her, someone who feels pressured and trapped into a role that she knows doesn’t fit who she is- and when we feel trapped, sometimes we lash out. I saw a girl who felt alienated because there weren’t many other girls into tech where she was (I’m sure that varies wildly by where you live), and whose family background made her different from the majority of kids around her at school (there’s a scene with Rishi where Dimple is so pleased that they can talk about their mothers and how he just gets it, without needing an explanation, and I found her relief at that charming). I understood Rishi’s sense of duty to his parents, even at the cost of his own dreams, whereas some of the reviews called him weak. It may be that I’m older; as an adult, as a parent, our lives are so often about sacrifice (sacrificing sleep, sacrificing your own health, sacrificing your own sanity to watch ANOTHER episode of LoudScreamyCartoonShow) that Rishi didn’t seem unrealistic to me. And the Aberzombies, well… I remember those kids well from high school. They existed. They were loud, obnoxious, acted as though the money their parents had earned made them better than everyone else… Yeah. I didn’t find them off the mark whatsoever.
Maybe this is just a case of readers bringing different things to the story. Maybe I would’ve read this different when I was younger; maybe the readers who dislike it on Goodreads would understand Dimple differently as they grow older. Each story is really a million different stories, isn’t it? A million different stories, and all of them valid.
While I would’ve liked to have seen was Dimple and Rishi working a little more on their app, although I just figured that took place off-screen. A few more scenes of them hard at work would’ve fit well with Dimple’s drive to improve her coding skills. But overall, I enjoyed this. I always enjoy reading stories with Indian characters (whether living in India or Indian by heritage); it’s a beautiful culture and learning more about it never fails to move me in some way. So this worked for me, and I’m honestly a little surprised at the vitriol I’m reading in so many Goodreads reviews.
Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts, because I’m feeling like I seriously missed something, in regards to those other reviews (although a friend of mine read and rated it four stars, so that makes me feel better!).