Author: Kavita Daswani
Release Date: January 17, 2012
Genre: Teen/YA, Cultural (South Asian)
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5
Shalini is a teenager whose life has been upended: her father received a great job offer in the United States, and now she and her family are leaving India to settle in a new country. Shalini doesn’t know what to expect in America, but she knows things will be very different. In India, she lives in a house with all her aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents; she doesn’t know what it is like to be alone. What’s more, she has been promised since her third birthday to Vikram, the son of a family friend. She has known she is going to marry him her entire life and finds comfort in that stability. But now she has been torn away from the boy she loves, will Shalini be able to settle in America and enjoy her new experiences, or will her heart always be in India?
Despite its “ripped from the headlines”-esque title, Lovetorn is actually a cute little book about an Indian girl named Shalini. Needless to say, she isn’t thrilled about leaving everything she knows. She has a good life in India – friends, family, a boyfriend she knows she will marry one day. Why would she want to leave all that behind? As Shalini experiences growing pains and adjusts to life in the US, readers will really feel for her. I cringed at times on her behalf, with full knowledge what would happen when Shalini wore her best “frock” for her first day at school. Her introduction to America teenage society certainly isn’t easy, nor isn’t it a positive experience.
But soon, Shalini begins to adjust to her new life. She finds a best friends and a group with which to belong. All of a sudden, she begins to wonder about what she has taken for granted her entire life – should she marry Vikram? Is that the correct path for her? It’s heartbreaking to see such a young girl having to deal with such serious issues as marriage. While the certainty of how her future was going to turn out might have been a comfort to Shalini, it also means that she was denied the right to make such an important decision for herself. It’s not about the “right” path so much, but just that Shalini has the freedom to experience life and then decide for herself what is in her own best interest.
Daswani adds layers to Lovetorn through Shalini’s mother. To put it mildly, she doesn’t adjust to life in the US well, putting an even larger burden on her daughter’s shoulders. I have no doubt that many immigrants must deal with this difficult situation, so it’s gratifying that Daswani chose to include it. Depression is by no means an easy issue, and it’s only natural that being away from home and your support network would exacerbate it.
All in all, Lovetorn is a sweet, quick read about an appealing teenage girl. What I appreciated about Daswani’s treatment of the issues in this novel is that she doesn’t ram an agenda down the readers’ throat. She doesn’t try to say that either Indian or American culture is better, simply that it’s important to have the right to have your own experiences and choose your own destiny. Both American and Indian teenagers will find something to appreciate in this novel.
Other books by Kavita Daswani: