Note: This review is part of the 2016 Summer Reading Diversity Spotlight.
Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed
Release Date: March 24, 2015
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
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This heart-wrenching novel explores what it is like to be thrust into an unwanted marriage. Has Naila’s fate been written in the stars? Or can she still make her own destiny?
Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up—but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating—even friendship with a boy—is forbidden. When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed—her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late.
If you own Written in the Stars, whether it’s on your shelf or in your kindle library, and you haven’t read it yet, push your plans to the side and make this your next read. If you don’t have this book in your possession, now is the time to buy your copy or get/request it at your library. This book tells the extraordinary story of a young Pakistani American girl, Naila and her fight for her human right to marry who she chooses.
Do wardens expect gratitude from inmates for the luxuriousness of their cage?
As the story begins, we are introduced to Naila, who is keeping her relationship with her boyfriend of over a year secret from her parents, who have told her (since the age of ten) that they will choose her spouse for her. Naila thinks she has a chance at changing her parents’ minds but she has no idea that her summer vacation to Pakistan is going to last a lot longer than she anticipated. So much so, that she might even miss her college orientation.
I can’t even tell you how much I appreciated seeing all that I did in this story. The subject of arranged marriage was a no holds barred portrayal (a portrayal that is not everyone’s story but certainly many) and was still respectful, making sure to not have bias and indeed show the motives behind all of the characters. As we see, good intentions does not always lead to good action. Good intentions can ruin people’s entire lives.
I also loved how fleshed out the characters were. From Naila’s parents and extended family in Pakistan to the family of the man Naila is forced to marry, every character and relationship had an essential, complex, and tense place in the story and really brought this story to life, especially in the colorful setting of Pakistan. It can’t remember the last YA book I read that wasn’t fantasy that was set outside of the United States so this was really refreshing. Saeed really brought the setting of Pakistan to life and I loved every moment of it.
Our lives are lived for the sake of others. Our happiness is never factored in.
As the story quickly moves from Florida to Pakistan and really takes off, readers are captivated by the cultural pressure put on Naila and her journey as she realizes the scheme currently in action to take away her freedom in favor of a more traditional life and as she figures out a way to become free of those same traditions which trap her. This is only one cultural tradition of many that we see in the book, the others are generally speaking, not taboo. Simple identifiers. Food, attire, etc… this is a really lovely look at what makes this culture beautiful in more ways than one.
Naila’s tale is a harrowing tale of the fight for freedom, even when that means shaming her family, even when that means her own family could have her killed for going against tradition and instead living the best life she chooses on her own to live. This is a riveting tale about what it takes one woman to love freely, live independently, and hope beyond the walls that are created for her to reside in.
This is a really fast paced story and my only critique is that I wish this story had been slowed down a few beats. There were so many moments that could have been savored just a bit longer. Still, the story is fantastic and I highly, highly recommend reading this as soon as you have the chance to. Highly recommend.
Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed is available today.