Wednesday, September 11, 2013

If You Could Be Mine

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
4/5 stars
Alqonquin Young Readers, 2013
247 pages
YA Contemporary LGBTQ

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book grabbed my attention with its setting in Iran. Doubling my interest was the plot about two young girls in love-a love that could lead to punishment as severe as execution if discovered. It was actually a topic of conversation with people in real life. One of my coworkers isn't much impressed with my reading material (he tends to like hard sci-fi and epic fantasy) but he was very thrown to hear my summary of the book as follows.

So in Iran, it is a sin, punishable by death to be a woman in love with another woman (similarly if both parties are male). However if someone feels like a man trapped in a woman's body, it is desirable, encouraged, and even funded by the government to perform gender reassignment surgery to correct the "flaw." This is the basis for the story of Sahar, long in love with her best friend Nasrin as the latter prepares for her arranged marriage. Sahar desperately conceives of a plan to become a man in order to stay with Nasrin. Isn't that a unique premise? I want to read more multi-cultural books and I don't want to become blase to all the exciting stories being told in YA so I'm really glad that I checked this one out.

Honestly the hardest part of this book for me was seeing Sahar slack on her previous stellar academic record because she was so obsessed with her love. I hate seeing that in a character. What I did like though was that Nasrin is just as in love with Sahar as she can be despite Sahar's astonishment that that could be true. I'm such a sucker for romances where each person thinks they're the luckiest person in the world because how could that wonderful other person be willing to be with them? However I did put a caveat that Nasrin is as in love as she can be; the spoiled girl likes attention and the easy life and isn't necessarily willing to be Sahar if it means disobeying her wealthy parents.

Another important subplot was Sahar's cousin Ali, who is carefully navigating his sexuality in intolerant Iran while also building a thriving mini-empire. He connects Sahar with so many people and opens up her eyes to a whole new world. Her father is also important. After the death of her mother five years ago, he has basically withdrawn from everything, leaving Sahar to fend for herself. His development over the course of the book is remarkable as he finally starts to wake up to his life again.

I wish there had been a bit more discussion of religion beyond Sahar's casual references. However the political side was more of note. For example, I loved Sahar's imagination of Ayatollah Khomeini and Ayatollah Khamenei as grandfathers alternately angry and disappointed in her. It made me want to read a lot more about the Iranian Revolution of 1979 as I am very unfamiliar with it.

As for the ending, it's not the ridiculous happy ending that one might hope for but it is very fitting and I found it quite satisfying. It felt realistic and optimistic. I hope Sahar finds her place!

Other Opinions:
A Reader of Fictions
Blkosiner's Book Blog
Great Imaginations
In Bed With Books

20 comments:

  1. Glad you enjoyed this one! We've been hearing mixed reviews, but the author seems lovely. Hope to check it out ourselves soon!

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    1. It was really cool and unusual-I'm glad I had the chance to try it.

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  2. I'm not sure I would have picked this one up, but I from the sounds of it, I think I will keep an eye out for it. Great review.

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    1. I think the premise might be hard for some people but I thought everything was very well handled.

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  3. your review is much more excited than some of the others I've seen. Regardless, I really want to read this. I like books that take place in other countries as well.

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    1. I haven't read many reviews for this so not sure what problems others have had-I just liked this new reading experience I had.

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  4. This is the second review I have read of this book and I am kind of kicking myself for not requesting it on NG now. I've actually read one book for a sociology course that examines the Islamic culture, and I really enjoyed it. It was a memoir (which I normally don't do) but it was so revealing and interesting. Homosexuality and transgender issues weren't part of that book, but I do find it fascinating that Islam accepts one but not the other. I think I need to check this out after all. Great review:)

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    1. I was so surprised that the one was accepted too as I believe Christianity isn't very open to either and I think Judaism is the same. What was the memoir you read?

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  5. Like I mentioned on GR I have this book sitting on my review shelf, just haven't mustered up the inspiration to read it yet. I appreciate you highlighting your favorite aspects of the book. Out of all of them you listed, finding out more about the culture and political structure of Iran would be really good reasons for me to explore this book. I, too, am enamored by the premise. I think you've done a great job (with your review) of convincing me I should read this book soon. Thanks!

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    1. I hope you do give it a read soon-I think it deserves some attention in the blogosphere for its unique premise and the way it is so different from other American YA.

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  6. I have this and am looking forward to reading it. Great review!

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    1. Oh I hope you do Jen! I'd love to know your thoughts.

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  7. The ending really did work well for this book.

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    1. I always hope for an HEA but wasn't sure how this book could get one...then we had this ending, which totally satisfied me.

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  8. I have this for review and I am looking forward to reading it. I am relieved to know that you liked it and that there is at least an optimistic ending for Sahar.

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    1. I couldn't have handled anything too dark-she is moving to a good place by the end and I'm happy for her.

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  9. I really really want to read this one. Pretty much everything about it sounds fascinating to me. I think I'm going to go reserve this at the library because I don't think I can live with not reading it.

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    1. I hope you love it-I think it fits our eclectic taste :)

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  10. This definitely sounds like an interesting read. I don't think I've read anything like it and this is my first time hearing of it. Great review :)

    Janina @ Synchronized Reading

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    1. I've never read anything like it either and I can only hope for more books exploring this and especially looking more into Muslim culture.

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