Friday, December 27, 2019

YA Novel Likable, But Not Unique

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Reared in Saudi Arabia, 17-year-old Susan Thomas has just moved to Ontario, Canada.  Her father stayed behind to tend to his medical practice, leaving her and her mother alone in a foreign city, with promises that he would join them soon.  In the meantime, the two women fumble along trying to figure out life in a new place.  Although Susan is not the only Indian student at her high school, nor the only one with immigrant parents, she still feels out of place there.  Even at home, she doesn't feel entirely comfortable since she's hiding a big secret from her parents—Susan has no desire to become the doctor or engineer her parents insist she must be; she longs to become an artist.

Despite his bad-boy reputation, there's a lot more to Malcolm Vakil than meets the eye.  He's still grieving the mother he lost to cancer two years ago and harboring feelings of resentment toward his hard, philandering father.  He can't wait to turn 18 and get out of Dodge.  Who cares if he has no idea what he wants to do with his life?  Malcolm will figure it out—he just needs to get away from home, out in the world where he can breathe.  

When Susan and Malcolm meet, they both feel a connection.  As they slowly become more than friends, however, they both start to realize just how complicated romance can be.  Especially when the rest of their lives are already so tangled.  Can the two of them figure out a way to be together, despite the odds?  Can Susan make sense of her new identity as an Indian and a Canadian?  Will she follow the career path her parents want for her or find the courage to finally stand up for herself?  

Cultural/ethnic identity seems to be a huge theme in YA literature.  I've read dozens of books lately about teens with hyphenated identities trying to straddle the line between their parents' expectations and their own desires and the traditions of their homeland cultures vs. the ideas of the one in which they live.  What am I? and who am I? are big questions—it's no wonder so many YA novels address them.  Because there are so many similar stories, though, books like The Beauty of the Moment by Tanaz Bhathena don't feel all that unique.  Susan and Malcolm are both likable, sympathetic characters, but they really don't stand out among their fictional peers.  The book's plot is one I've read a million times.  No surprises.  Which isn't to say I didn't enjoy The Beauty of the Moment.  I did.  It just doesn't seem to really add anything to a crowded genre.  So, while I liked the novel, it doesn't stick out as a memorable or unique read for me.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Frankly in Love by David Yoon)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, rude humor, and sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received a copy of The Beauty of the Moment from the generous folks at Macmillan for purposes of Cybils Awards judging.  Thank you!

2 comments:

  1. Though I don't disagree with you, that this is a story we have seen before, I did enjoy the journey I took with Susan. Being #OwnVoices gave me a perspective different from my own, and I remember really loving the ending.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I hear what you're saying about YA in general and this novel specifically. No real surprises, but done well. I think all the versions appeal to different youth so I am glad they are all out there.

    ReplyDelete

Comments make me feel special, so go crazy! Just keep it clean and civil. Feel free to speak your mind (I always do), but be aware that I will delete any offensive comments.

P.S.: Don't panic if your comment doesn't show up right away. I have to approve each one before it posts to prevent spam. It's annoying, but it works!

Blog Widget by LinkWithin