Thursday, April 1, 2021

#AmReading YA

American Betiya

Anuradha D. Rajurkar
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
Fans of Sandhya Menon, Erika Sanchez and Jandy Nelson will identify with this powerful story of a young artist grappling with first love, family boundaries, and the complications of a cross-cultural relationship.

Rani Kelkar has never lied to her parents, until she meets Oliver. The same qualities that draw her in--his tattoos, his charisma, his passion for art--make him her mother's worst nightmare.

They begin dating in secret, but when Oliver's troubled home life unravels, he starts to ask more of Rani than she knows how to give, desperately trying to fit into her world, no matter how high the cost. When a twist of fate leads Rani from Evanston, Illinois to Pune, India for a summer, she has a reckoning with herself--and what's really brewing beneath the surface of her first love.

Winner of the SCBWI Emerging Voices award, Anuradha Rajurkar takes an honest look at the ways cultures can clash in an interracial relationship. Braiding together themes of sexuality, artistic expression, and appropriation, she gives voice to a girl claiming ownership of her identity, one shattered stereotype at a time.
Rani had always been the model daughter. She was studious and spent her spare time reading articles pertaining to her future as a medical doctor. She was active in her community, often volunteering with the younger children. But when Oliver showed an interest in Rani, she embarked on a secret relationship with him that had her struggling between her love for him and her love for her family. 

This book had me feeling ALL the emotions. I felt the euphoria of first love, the guilt of betraying loved ones, the stress of having to compromise yourself for someone else, and the pain of multiple losses. This was quite a journey for Rani. It was riddled with poor choices, but I was elated and practically fist-punching for her in the end. 

I am first generation American, but my father pretty much abandoned his culture when he moved to the US, so I cannot relate to Rani's experience in that way. However, I appreciated her struggle with trying to find herself somewhere between the two cultures. That was something which was really interesting for me. Rani had a certain perception about her parents, their ways, and their rules at the beginning of the story. I saw it slowly change as Rani's relationship with Oliver evolved. I think my favorite part of this story was when the bottom fell out, and Rani was forced to come to terms with the situation. It was then she started having honest discussions and began to really understand her parents and herself. 

When everything started to crumble, Rani was whisked away to Pune. I thought it was a brilliant and really meaningful way to allow her to get back on track. There, she was surrounded by her family and immersed in her culture. She did a lot of soul searching about how these parts of her added up to the whole, and it resulted in some deeply touching moments. 

When I finished this book, I was drying my tears. It was a roller coaster journey for Rani (and me). There were highs and lows, gains and losses, and in the end, she discovered a lot about herself. 

Overall: Extremely heartbreaking and touching, while also being very honest.


Five Ways to Fall Out of Love

Emily Martin
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
This whip-smart rom-com explores the risks and rewards of letting love in, for fans of Jennifer E. Smith, Julie Buxbaum, and Sandhya Menon.

How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways…

Aubrey Cash learned the hard way not to rely on love. After all, Webster Casey, the new boy next door she’d been falling for all summer, stood her up at homecoming in front of everyone with no explanation. Proving her theory that love never lasts seems easy when she’s faced with parents whose marriage is falling apart and a best friend who thinks every boy she dates is “the one.” But when sparks fly with a boy who turns out to be Webster’s cousin, and then Webster himself becomes her lab partner for the rest of senior year, Aubrey finds her theory—and her commitment to stay single—put to the test.

As she navigates the breakdown of her family, the consequences her cynicism has on her relationship with her best friend, and her own confusing but undeniable feelings for Webster, Aubrey has to ask herself: What really happened the night Webster stood her up? And if there are five ways to fall out of love…could there perhaps be even more ways to fall back in?
Aubrey had never been in love, and she wasn't sure she ever wanted to be. All her first, and second hand, experiences pointed to love as a fleeting thing. She tried to resist it! She even employed math to confirm her anti-love stance. However, her heart and her head couldn't seem to agree, and Aubrey had to decide which to follow. 

I re-read the synopsis for this book before starting my review, and I seemed to disagree with a few things. I think we are being a little to liberal with the "rom-com" label, or maybe it's just me, but I didn't find this to be a rom-com. Did it have fun and funny moments? Yes, but it also had a fair bit more angst and drama than your average rom-com. 

Maybe the book didn't live up to that label, but it was still great. For me, this was a story about a young woman at a crossroads in her life. She was faced with the decision to continue making safe choices and risk missing out on wonderful things, or to take a leap of faith, open herself to possibilities, and discover something wonderful. That story, I fully embraced and throughly enjoyed. 

The book was divided into five parts, five ways to fall out of love. Each involved people in Aubrey's life, but all don't focus on her love life. Rather, they frame relationships which influenced Aubrey's ideas about love. Friendships, her parents' marriage, her bestie's romantic entanglements, as well as her own romantic relationships were examined. I liked that we got glimpses into these relationships, because it really helped me understand where Aubrey's head was at, even if I didn't necessarily agree with her. 

I appreciated all the life changes Aubrey was anticipating. She would be going off to college without her best friend, where she would have to get acclimated to a new environment and new people. I can understand being ambivalent about the future when it comes with so many unknowns. So, after she was burned, I don't blame her for not rushing to give her heart away. Like I said, I didn't always agree with how she handled things, but I sort of understood why Aubrey made the choices she did, and I liked that many of her poorer decisions drove her into an introspective mode. I would say, that most of her missteps resulted in some meaningful reflection, and she learned a lot from her mistakes. 

Aubrey joins a long line of messy characters I have grown to love. It wasn't always easy to like her, but I know I did. The proof? There were tears! Tears are my way of showing I care and am invested. I went into this anticipating a hate-to-love sort of romance, but this was about more than Aubrey's personal romance or even romantic love. It was more about taking chances and opening yourself up to possibilities, while also being about how we can't expect things to stay the same as time moves forward, and I enjoyed struggling with Aubrey as she accepted some of these things and acquired more knowledge about herself. 

**ARCs received in exchange for honest reviews.

Do you enjoy photography?
Let us know in the comments!

19 comments:

  1. Tears are usually a good sign! And I love a story that explores the crossroads of life, the learning about oneself. These both sound nice but Five Ways especially.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am all about the tears. It pains me the way marketing Five Ways. I think that's why it's not being received as well as I think it could be.

      Delete
  2. Lovely review, thanks for sharing your thoughts

    ReplyDelete
  3. American Betiya sounds like an incredible story, definitely one I'll need to keep the tissues on standby for when I read it, lol. Five Ways to Fall Out of Love sounds really good too and I agree with you that it does not sound like what I would consider to be a rom com. It sounds like humor is just one of many elements of the story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I mean, a lot of books have humor in them, but it doesn't mean they are rom-coms, you know? This is a hill I will die on.

      Delete
  4. I agree. I wouldn't have called this a rom-com. I enjoyed it anyways, though. Great points!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel like some of the negativity stems from people expecting one thing and getting another.

      Delete
  5. great reviews. not my usual type of book, but after reading your reviews...i love books that bring forth strong emotions
    sherry @ fundinmental

    ReplyDelete
  6. These both sound like solid reads. I just added them to the TBR.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They were. Hope you get a chance to check them out

      Delete
  7. It always makes me a little sad when I see teenage characters like Audrey who are already so jaded about love, don't believe it exists, or don't want it for themselves.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But you know those people exist. I think it's hard to believe in something, when you have never seen it done well.

      Delete
  8. Both of these books sound fantastic! I love it when a book can elicit real emotion from me. I really like the role that culture plays in American Betiya and I like that all kinds of relationships are examined in Five Ways to Fall Out of Love.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Definitely appreciated the perspective the author offered in American Betiya.

      Delete
  9. I love that she tried to use math to justify her being anti-love! Definitely one I want to read. Lovely reviews, Sam! <3

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear? 💬

    ReplyDelete
  10. Both are on my TBR, glad to hear they are good! Thanks for the reviews!

    ReplyDelete