It seemed like time to switch up my usual reading. YA is not my thing but I had heard good things about this book and it actually sounded like experiences of people I've known. Since I *finally* watched the last 'Hunger Games' films I guess I was in the mood for YA.
Naila is a young woman about to graduate from high school and go to college. She's like any other senior, ready to graduate and preparing for new life. A bit of a twist happens: she has a boyfriend, which is a strict no-no with her family. She's supposed to go to school and eventually get married. Her parents have decided this. Unfortunately plans go awry when her parents catch Naila with her boyfriend, Saif.
All seems like things will still be okay until her parents announce that they are going to go to Pakistan the day she's supposed to graduate from high school. At first it seems like it will be no big deal. Naila is told that the family will be back before she will have her college orientation. In Pakistan she visits/receives guests of her parents, meets extended family, and basically does not realize her parents are about to entrap her in an arranged marriage with no way out. I had a Pakistani friend who was in a *very* similar situation and from what she told me Saeed's portrayal was really not far off the mark at all.
I don't want to be any more spoiler-y but I will say that this ended up being much darker and more intense than I expected (in a good way, though). From what I know Naila's experience with a forced arranged marriage is sadly very true to life. However, without being too spoiler-y I'm glad author Saeed gave Naila a happy ending in the end.
That said, it's not perfect. The book is VERY readable and actually had me on the edge of my seat. But some of that makes me a bit hesitant on some things. Naila seems extremely naive. She has the ability to sneak around with her boyfriend and can pull off some degree of subterfuge. Did she not have any clue that her parents could forcibly arrange her marriage? Her parents also seemed very two-dimensional but at the same time some of what they said rang true to life. However, I really felt Naila should have known something was up when her parents blamed themselves for how she turned out (sneaking around with a boy). No alarm bells that they'd try to control the situation by marrying her off?
Like others have said, the ending seemed too neat and tidy. There are many moving pieces to arrange the resolution and MANY sides to this. While I'm happy how it ended, I also felt it was quite abrupt and just too "clean". I would have also liked a bit more of the other side and how Saif knew where to find her.
But overall I was pleased about the book itself. I've thought I'm just not into YA at all and was thrilled to be proven wrong. I was also VERY happy to read that this was not based on Saeed's personal experience (her author's note and bio on the flap says she had a semi-arranged marriage that has turned out to be very happy but acknowledges that unfortunately there are many stories like Naila's).
It's worth noting that due to the subject matter some of the material might be a bit dark. Kidnapping, forced arranged marriage, marital rape, domestic violence, etc. are all topics. Thankfully the rape and violence are not that graphic but they are there and they are part of the story.
Would still recommend reading it and would recommend taking a look at the resources too. Unfortunately Naila's story still happens and we need books like this. I bought this as a bargain book but would not be a bad book for a YA fan or someone who wants to read more about arranged marriages. I look forward to Saeed's next book.