WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI - by Sandhya Menon

Published: 2017 - by Simon Pulse
Genres: Young adult / romance / contemporary
Pages: 380.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Very mild sexual innuendo and infrequent bad language.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right? Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself. The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not? Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

I was so excited to get this book to review! At one stage it was all I could see and hear on bookish Twitter, and despite mixed reviews, the majority of bloggers seemed to love it.
I ended up thoroughly enjoying this book.

The writing is wonderful. I absolutely love Menon's warm, natural style, and it perfectly sets the tone for the warmth and humility of the story itself. It isn't incredibly evocative and the language isn't particularly original, but the writing draws you in with a vulnerability and 'friendliness' that makes you feel as if the characters are sitting in right in front of you, telling you the story face to face.

But the dialogue isn't great. It warms up as the story progresses, but it's never very inspired or profound. I don't not like it, it just doesn't leave an amazing impression.

I love, love, love the Indian culture and diversity that overflows through these pages. I'm a white cis girl who's never traveled outside of South Africa, but I found myself wholly immersed in Dimple and Rishi's Indian background and literally cheering for them when they stood tall against the white, bratty rich kids who dissed their culture. (Seriously.  I even yelled - out loud - 'buuuuuurn!' when Rishi's wit got the better of Hari, Evan and Isabelle's offensive comments during that restaurant scene). It's so proudly Indian, and Menon also offers some very insightful thoughts on how Dimple and Rishi's Indian upbringing corresponds to their current American life.
(FYI: There are also some amazing descriptions of food. Which make you hungry, but are definitely worth the pain).

“I feel like I need to speak out, because if no one speaks out, if no one says, this is me, this is what I believe in, and this is why I'm different, and this is why that's okay, then what's the point? What's the point of living in this beautiful, great melting pot where everyone can dare be anything they want to be?”

The story's funny. But I am disappointed that it isn't very funny. The humour is endearing and makes you smile, but there definitely aren't laugh-out-loud moments and there isn't any incredible wit. I was expecting to laugh more, and I'm disappointed that I didn't have much reason to.

The story is predictable. But it's also extremely satisfying and enjoyable. There are clich├ęs and there is cheese, but this is a romantic contemporary so what can you expect? In this genre it's not unusual, and this book has never claimed to be anything else. It's fun and entertaining, and the fluff is proud to be there - as bright and charming as can be. There were even a number of times while reading that I just couldn't stop this beam from spreading across my face. It's feel good.

But the plot is a mess. Seriously, Insomnia Con? And they've come here to design an app, but there's a talent show that appears out of nowhere and even such a thing as Little Comic Con? It makes no sense whatsoever. I also wish we could've seen more of the app design and Dimple's techy side, instead of the story focusing on her relationship with Rishi and the friends and bullies conflict - however entertaining those aspects are. But the whole app plot and the going to Insomnia Con is very poorly executed.

“She wept for her hardheadedness, and for a world that couldn't just let her be both, a woman in love and a woman with a career, without flares of guilt and self-doubt seeping in and wreaking havoc.”

“Seriously? That's what you think I should be relegating my brain space to? Looking nice? Like, if I don't make the effort to look beautiful, my entire existence is nullified? Nothing else matters-not my intellect, not my personality or my accomplishments; my hopes and dreams mean nothing if I'm not wearing eyeliner?”

The characters are brilliant. The secondary cast are well written and compelling, and the friendships and relationship conflicts between people are expertly written. I love the positive but very human parent to child, sibling to sibling, and friend to friend relationships.
The strong feminist themes are also excellent. Feminism is present throughout the novel in a perfectly natural, unpreachy way, and I love and relate to Dimple's stubborn, somehow pig-headed, determination to succeed without a guy. Menon executes her obvious opinions on this topic and others so, so well.

Like all good romances, Dimple and Rishi are a heroine and hero who are strong characters whether they're together or not.  They are both so human and three dimensional. In some ways, I can easily relate to Dimple and I saw myself in her shoes more than once. My opinions of men, women, and romance are alarmingly similar to hers - for better and for worse - and I admit I'm also the kind of girl who might push guys away because I'm so convinced I don't need love in my life, or be too hard on myself and tell myself I will not fall in love. And like Dimple, I've learnt something from those cold, pig-headed claims as well - and seen the idiocy in them.
(One thing I do not like about Dimple: how she infrequently hits or 'punches' Rishi. Yeah, it's mostly playful I guess, but still. I don't think it's okay). 
I also adore how flawed these characters are. Dimple and Rishi's faults prove almost catastrophic in this story, but they grow and learn from them as the story continues - undergoing incredible, pitch-perfect development. Menon also does a rare thing: she stays true to her characters. She plays their flaws for all they're worth, and just when things are going too smoothly for the couple, she stays true to their personalities and makes sure that the obstacles that pop up are a result of their own flaws and mistakes. Her consistency is note-worthy.

The romance is sweet. Dimple and Rishi are geeky and adorable together, and I definitely ship them. But I do wish they'd argued more and been less 'insta-loving' - as it is, there's hardly hostility between them before suddenly they're warming to each other and becoming friends. I was expecting more fire, more anger, more 'You're my enemy! You will not win me over!', but their initial little spat is over soon, and they're already following their hearts. The rest of the book is rifle with conflict between them, but I still wanted more build-up, more slow-burn. It's definitely insta-attraction, if not love. And not just for Rishi (whose character is meant to be like that from the start anyway).

When Dimple Met Rishi is a diverse and heart-warming story filled with vivid, human, and beautifully flawed three-dimensional characters. The plot and dialogue are weak, but the characters and themes of feminism, friendship, and learning from your mistakes make this an utterly worthwhile read. 


  1. AWESOME review! I still need to get my hands on this one!!

  2. I’m so happy you really liked this!! I found the plot a little messy too, but I couldn’t help loving the culture and how adorable everything was.

  3. This sounds like a cute story, and you're right, it seems like everyone is loving it! I'll probably be the last one to read it!

  4. This is one of my top reads of this year. It just made me feel so happy.

  5. Wow, this review is so in-depth, and I couldn't find a better review! I'm currently reading this now, and I'm glad that I can keep what you said in mind to lower my disappointment. Amazing review!

    Kim @ Divergent Gryffindor