Book Review: There’s Something About Sweetie

there's something about sweetieThere’s Something About Sweetie
by Sandhya Menon
Young Adult Romance
378 pages
Published May 2019

There is so much to love about this book. I read When Dimple Met Rishi a while back, and fell in love with Rishi like I VERY rarely do with fictional characters. This book is about Rishi’s brother, Ashish. I don’t care for Ashish as much as I liked Rishi, but Sweetie – oh, girl.

See, Sweetie is fat. But despite how all the traditionalists around her would have her feel, she’s okay with that. She’s still the fastest runner on the track team, an amazing singer, and has a close group of loyal friends.

So when she’s approached by Ashish’s mother to arrange dating him, and it’s turned down flatly by her own mother because she’s “not at his level” – she makes the decision to show her mother she CAN be happy, and have the things her mother wants for her, WHILE BEING FAT. And so is born the “Sassy Sweetie Project,” which is adorable.

I love Sweetie, and being a fat person myself (who also snagged a hottie, not gonna lie) I identify SO MUCH with her struggles here. Snide remarks from family friends, the constant “if you’d just lose weight” from the people close to you, the expectation that you can’t be happy while fat – Sweetie faces all of that, tells it to sod off, and proves you can be fat and healthy and happy.

One thing I really like about the Menon’s arranged relationships – the Patels, at least, treat it as “we’ll arrange this, but it’s up to you to follow through. If you don’t like each other, we won’t force you to go through with this.” Which is a nice thing to see. It’s probably just an American stereotype that says arranged marriages are forced relationships; not knowing the culture first hand, I can’t say which one is closer to the truth. BUT it challenges American assumptions about arranged marriages, and that’s a great thing, and another reason to read diversely. (I’m willing to bet Menon’s version of it is closer to the modern norm for arranged marriages, at least.)

I love that even in a sweet, lighthearted romance such as this one, reading diversely challenges American assumptions about other cultures. I feel like this is especially important in Young Adult lit – presenting other cultures to teens before opinions about them are fully formed. Because I’ll admit, I have a instinctual “ACK!” reaction to the thought of an arranged marriage – in my mind that infringes on all the independence and free will I’ve clawed so hard for – but it’s worthwhile to be reminded that sometimes it looks like this, and not “Hey, my 14-year-old daughter, you’re going to marry a 40-year-old man tomorrow, deal with it” (though that does certainly happen, but it happens in the US, too! Don’t believe me? Read here).

Both of Sandhya Menon’s books that I’ve read present arranged relationships in a much more positive light than typical American media. It’s important representation, and the characters and relationships are a joy to read to boot.

(Tagged LGBT for an adorable gay couple who are friends of Ashish’s and show up throughout the book.)

From the cover of There’s Something About Sweetie:

ASHISH PATEL didn’t know love could be so . . . sucky. After he’s dumped by his ex-girlfriend, his mojo goes AWOL. Even worse, his parents are annoyingly, smugly confident they can find him a better match. So, in a moment of weakness, Ash challenges them to set him up.

The Patels insist that Ashish date an Indian-American girl – under contract. Per subclause 1(a), he’ll be taking his date on “fun” excursions like visiting the Hindu temple and his eccentric Gita Auntie. Kill him now. How is this ever going to work?

SWEETIE NAIR is many things: a formidable track athlete who can outrun most people in California, a loyal friend, a shower-singing champion. Oh, and she’s also fat. To Sweetie’s traditional parents, this last detail is the kiss of death. 

Sweetie loves her parents, but she’s so tired of being told she’s lacking because she’s fat. She decides it’s time to kick off the Sassy Sweetie Project, where she’ll show the world (and herself) what she’s really made of.

Ashish and Sweetie both have something to prove. But with each date they realize there’s an unexpected magic growing between them. Can they find their true selves without losing each other?

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Book Review: If I’m Being Honest

if i'm being honestIf I’m Being Honest
by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka
Young Adult / Shakespeare Retelling / Romance
359 pages
Published April 2019

So I either forgot or failed to notice that this book was written by the same pair of authors that wrote Always Never Yours, a book revolving around a stage production of Romeo and Juliet with a main character based on Rosaline. I LOVED that book, and I don’t think this one would have languished on my shelves as long as it did if I’d realized the connection! (They have two more books coming out, Time of Our Lives in 2020 and an unnamed book in 2021!) The plots of the books are completely unconnected, but the two main characters in Always Never Yours did make a cameo in the end of If I’m Being Honest!

So. This book! I got STRONG 10 Things I Hate About You vibes off this book, and I loved that movie, so that alone should tell you what I thought of this book! I’m just a sucker for Shakespeare in any form, though. What I like about these authors is they don’t really retell the plays – they take one character out of the play and tell a story about HER. In Always Never Yours, it was Rosaline. In If I’m Being Honest, it’s Katherine/Kate. I’m eager to see who Time of Our Lives will be based on!

heinous bitch
So Cameron, our heroine, is a bitch, but as the reader we see her home life and the things she’s struggling with and WHY she is the way she is, so I was rooting for her the whole way. Her otherwise absentee father pays for an expensive private school, so there’s a lot of student politics and status-waving going on. When Cameron yells at another student at a party, her crush sees and is turned off by it, so Cameron decides that in order to win him back, she needs to make him see that she’s a good person. How to do that? Fix the things she’s broken. She starts with apologies, but has to up her game to actual ACTIONS when the apologies aren’t enough.

Through the course of the book, she finds herself actually making friends with the people she’d wronged, and falling for Brendan, who reminds me strongly of – well:

10things
(oh man, I REALLY need to watch this movie again.)

Oh! And Brendan has Celiac’s Disease, which doesn’t play a big part in the present-day plotline of the book, but is a HUGE part of why he’s an outcast.

I like Cameron and Brendan a lot, and this book was another great read from this pair of authors.

From the cover of If I’m Being Honest:

Cameron Bright is gorgeous, popular, and – according to 99% of Beaumont Prep’s student body – a bitch. That doesn’t bother Cameron, who knows how important it is to be honest. But when her crush, Andrew, sees Cameron’s cruelty up close, it’s a major turn-off, and suddenly Cameron’s consumed with winning him back. So she devises a plan: she’ll “tame” herself like Shakespeare’s illustrious shrew, Katherine, and make amends with everyone she’s wronged. If she can reverse her reputation as a mean girl, Andrew will have to take notice.

Cameron’s apology tour begins with Brendan Rosenfeld, the guy whose social life she single-handedly destroyed in the sixth grade. But earning his forgiveness requires befriending the school’s geeky crowd – which isn’t as easy as it looks. Soon, though, Cameron begins to see that her new friends bring out the best in her, especially Brendan, who views her honesty as an asset. Now Cameron’s left wondering if maybe she doesn’t have to compromise who she is for the kind of love she deserves.

Friday 56 – If I’m Being Honest

if i'm being honestThe Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The rules are simple – turn to page 56 in your current read (or 56% in your e-reader) and post a few non-spoilery sentences.

This week’s quote is from If I’m Being Honest, a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew by the same authors that wrote Always Never Yours. (Which I loved!)

In this scene, they’re in high school English, discussing The Taming of the Shrew.

Elle doesn’t wait to be called on before responding. “You’re just upset because Kate doesn’t conform to her patriarchal society.” Her tone is uncompromising, her expression a mixture of passion and disgust. “She shouldn’t compromise who she is because of some guy or because she’s expected to find a husband.”

“Yeah,” I find myself saying. Kowalski’s eyes dart to me. It’s rare I participate in this class, but I’m fueled by every time I’ve had to listen to Andrew tell me I’m not good enough. “Just because she doesn’t fit your or Petruchio’s notion of a well-behaved woman doesn’t mean she has to change.”

Book Review: A Boy Named Shel

a boy named shelA Boy Named Shel
by Lisa Rogak
Biography
226 pages
Published 2007

Shel Silverstein’s birthday was yesterday, so I re-read my copy of Where The Sidewalk Ends on Tuesday, and I’ve been sharing my favorite poems over on Twitter. My library managed to send the biography of Shel Silverstein to me VERY quickly, so I raced through it yesterday to review it today!

I actually had no idea how much content Silverstein actually created. He wrote plays, songs, poems, short stories, cartoons, and collaborated on screenplays. He traveled extensively, had houses in multiple places, stayed in the Playboy Mansion A LOT, and generally seems to have kept up an incredibly frenetic pace of living. I really only knew about his children’s books, and now I need to hunt down the books he wrote for adults! I did find Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book which is 80 pages of “Thanks I Hate It.” Just – ridiculous, subversive, hilarious writing. I want to track down Different Dances and Take Ten, two more of his books for adults.

Lisa Rogak’s writing is incredibly easy to read, but one thing did annoy me. When talking about people she’ll switch between using their first names and their last names with no rhyme or reason. Which makes me think she’s talking about two different people, but she’s not. She needs to pick one and stick to it so I know who she’s talking about. Other than that, Rogak is an excellent biographer, and I might look up her back catalog to see who else she has written about!

A Boy Named Shel is an excellent, highly readable story of an absolute icon. Shel Silverstein was a powerhouse of creativity, and it’s actually a little sad that he’s best known for his children’s books, considering just how many other genres he had his hands in. Great book.

From the cover of A Boy Named Shel:

The first-ever biography of the one-of-a-kind author who created The Giving Tree, Where The Sidewalk Ends, and A Light in the Attic.

Few authors are as beloved as Shel Silverstein. His inimitable drawings and comic poems have become the bedtime staples of millions of children and their parents, but few readers know much about the man behind that wild-eyed, bearded face peering out from the back of the dust jacket.

In A Boy Named Shel, Lisa Rogak tells the full story of a life as antic and adventurous as any of his creations. A man with an incurable case of wanderlust, Shel kept homes on both coasts and many places in between – and enjoyed regular stays in the Playboy Mansion. Everywhere he went he charmed neighbors, made countless friends, and romanced almost as many women with his unstoppable energy and never-ending wit. 

His boundless creativity brought him fame and fortune – neither of which changed his down-to-earth way of life – and his children’s books sold millions of copies. But he was much more than “just” a children’s writer. He collaborated with anyone who crossed his path, and found success in a wider range of genres than most artists could ever hope to master. He penned hit songs like “A Boy Named Sue” and “The Unicorn.” He drew cartoons for Stars and Stripes and got his big break with Playboy. He wrote experimental plays and collaborated on scripts with David Mamet. With a seemingly unending stream of fresh ideas, he worked compulsively and enthusiastically on a wide array of projects up until his death, in 1999.

Drawing on wide-ranging interviews and in-depth research, Rogak gives fans a warm, enlightening portrait of an artist whose imaginative spirit created the poems, songs, and drawings that have touched the lives of so many children – and adults.

Library Loot Wednesday

Well, today’s post is going to look VERY similar to yesterday’s, because I picked up several of those books at the library this week!

 

Serpent & Dove, Anna Dressed in Blood, The Girl From The Well, and The Suffering all came in this week. The only book that wasn’t on yesterday’s list is The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics, a sapphic historical romance that has gotten rave reviews. I’ve had a hold on it for a LONG time.

TTT – My Fall To-Be-Read List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is my Fall TBR. Oh boy. What don’t I want to read?!

So to start we have the October Barnes & Noble Book Club reads – The Testaments for the adult book club, and Serpent & Dove for the Young Adult book club. I bought the B&N book club edition of The Testaments, and checked out Serpent & Dove through my library.

I’d like to read Rin Chupeco’s The Girl from the Well, (and sequel, The Suffering) and Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed In Blood. (And the sequel, Girl of Nightmares.) They all seem like good Halloween books.

There are several anthologies I want to get my hands on – The Mythic Dream and His Hideous Heart being two of my top priorities.

The last two are books I’ve had out from the library for a while and really need to get to – The Witch Who Came In From The Cold, and Broken Stars: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation.

So that’s my fairly spooky fall reading list, what’s yours?