Wednesday, September 11, 2013
If You Could Be Mine
Alqonquin Young Readers, 2013
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 After the death of her mother five years ago, he has basically withdrawn from everything, leaving Sahar to fend for herself.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!
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