“Written in the Stars” by Aisha Saeed is not just a love story, it’s about cultural differences and family choices. It’s a powerful story, and one thing is for sure — once you start reading it, you won’t be able to put it down. This reviewer read it in one sitting.
It’s about a teenager named Naila who is a typical American teen except for one huge difference — her Pakistani parents don’t let her go out with boys, talk to boys or spend the night away from home. But Naila has a secret. She’s fallen in love. She doesn’t think it can be that bad because she’s fallen in love with a Pakistani boy, Saif. But his family has been shunned by the rest of the group from Pakistan because his sister married an American. That event shamed his family and caused them to be ignored by their compatriots.
Naila has plans to start college in the fall, and she intends to study medicine. Her best friend and Saif will be attending the same college, so she knows that things will be easier then. But when she manages to sneak out to go to prom with Saif, her parents find out.
What follows is extraordinary, but according to the author, not that uncommon. Her parents take the family for a trip back to visit family in Pakistan. What Naila doesn’t find out until too late is that her parents plan to marry her off in Pakistan and leave her there. And there’s nothing she can do to stop it.
“Written in the Stars” is a debut novel that certainly doesn’t read like a first book — the dialogue is authentic and the plot is tightly woven. Saeed uses just the right amount of description to make the places and the characters come to life.
The story is magnificent. It’s compelling, touching, and, at times, graphic. But for middle school and high school readers, it is beautifully told and will spark discussions about culture and repression of women in other countries. The author offers the information that many girls are taken forcibly to other countries and forced into marriage there. She tempers that with the story of her own — arranged — marriage. An extremely happy marriage.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by Nancy Paulsen Books for review purposes.
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