By Matangi Kumar
Whether you’re stuck grueling at your nine to five or bored out of your mind locked at home during quarantine, a good book can do wonders to get you out of your fixed routine. I used to read constantly as a kid, but as life caught up with school and work it seemed impossible to get any time for myself, thus my reading for fun days had come to a halt. However, with the start of quarantine, I’ve come to love reading again and not just any type of book: fun and quick rom coms! A good romantic comedy is sure to put anyone in a good mood, and after growing up with writers like Sarah Dessen, a forefront of teen YA novels, it’s been great to discover that there are more and more South Asian voices coming to the table to share their stories.
If you’re looking for short and sweet Rom-Com novels that’ll brighten up your week, here are four books by South Asian women that I loved!
4. The Marriage Clock by Zara Raheem
There’s always one friend in every friend group that has their dream Bollywood wedding all planned out. From the decorations at the venue, to the songs at the Sangeet, this friend is sure that they’ve gotten every last detail down. If this doesn’t ring a bell, then perhaps the friend is you. But don’t worry, because the Marriage Clock by Zara Raheem is the perfect book for you. Read as Leila Amid ventures out to generate the perfect Bollywood meet cute. While her parents may not see eye to eye with her, insisting that love comes after marriage and that she should settle for a boy they pick out, Leila embarks
on a three-month mission to prove her parents wrong and to beat the marriage clock they’ve set for her. However, Leila soon comes to realize that finding the perfect Bollywood hero that checks off every box on her list and is ready to frolic through the hills in a perfectly choreographed song and dance is harder than it looks. I loved that Leila was strong, independent, and willing to write her own story and despite her parents having a different mentality than her, they still loved and supported her decisions. This is definitely the book if you’re looking for a quick, light, and wholesome weekend read.
3. Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon
Sandhya Menon is an iconic South Asian writer whose teen romance novels always hit the mark, and she’s done it again with one of her newest novels, Of Curses and Kisses. The book follows the usual romance story plotline: girl meets boy, girl tries to get boy to fall head over heels for her, girl tries to break the boy’s heart? Well, I guess it’s not your typical romance novel! This modern retelling of the Beauty and the Beast revolves around two royal families, the Raos and the Emersons, who have been feuding since the British Raj. Princess Jaya Rao cares about nothing more than protecting her sister and her family
name, and when the news outlets begin targeting her sister, Jaya has no one to blame other than the Emerson family. She and her sister are sent off to a boarding school for the rich in the snowy mountains of Aspen, where the Emerson heir coincidentally attends. Jaya hones in on this advantage to take down the Emerson name once and for all, but while her plan to woo Grey Emerson seemed bulletproof, she quickly realizes her feelings for him too! While this book has its share of cursed objects and witchy, I mean bitchy teenagers, it’s quite different from your average fairy tale as we learn about the dedication and responsibility Jaya has taken up as the heir to her throne. Her actions, while at times questionable, always come from a place of caring and familial obligation, and I loved reading her grow into a strong and independent princess. You’ll love this modern Desi retelling of Beauty and the Beast, truly a tale as old as time.
2. There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon
Number 2 on this list is by my favorite Sandhya Menon again as she takes Sima Aunty’s matchmaking service to a whole new level. If you thought Sima Aunty was the best matchmaker in the business, then you haven’t met There’s Something About Sweetie’s, Sunita Aunty. After successfully matchmaking her eldest son Rishi to his current girlfriend Dimple, Sunita Aunty is back at it again with her younger son. Meet Ashish Patel, your typical Silicon Valley, basketball-loving, brown boy who is devastated after his girlfriend broke up with him. Everyone expects popular Ashish to just bounce back like he has with all his previous girlfriends,
but it takes some help from his family to push him into the right direction. Sunita Aunty tries to set him up with Sweetie, a local varsity track champion and self-proclaimed fat girl. Sweetie is just trying to get her mother’s approval, but despite being the fastest runner at her school, she’s still berated by her fatphobic mother for not being skinny. Sweetie, to spite her mom, agrees to Sunita Aunty’s match to her son and the rest is history. If you’re in the mood for one of the sweetest rom-coms about a girl trying to find her own self confidence by trying to tackle fatphobia in the desi community and boy who is head over heels for her and supports her along the process, then this is the book for you!
1. The Trouble With Hating You by Sajni Patel
Coming in at number one, and personally my favorite read of the summer, is The Trouble With Hating You, by Sajni Patel. Where do I even begin with this book? From breaking down stereotypes of how an Indian American girl should act, to putting toxic aunties in place, The Trouble with Hating You’s Liya Thakkar bites back at all the haters of the community with wit, sarcasm, and some serious shade. Despite being a successful biochemical engineer, Liya is ostracized by the entirety of the desi community and her family for her personal choices. But with her tight-knit group of friends as a support system, she couldn’t care less — until the night her parents ambush her with an arranged dinner to meet Jay Shah, the man they want her to marry. Liya decides to sneak out of this arranged dinner, only to find out that Jay’s been hired as a lawyer to save her biotech company, and she’s immediately taken aback at the grudge he holds over her. While the haters to lovers trope may be overplayed, Sajni Patel crafts these two characters effortlessly as they transition from brief exchanges of snarky commentary to playful banter, and eventually to true love? What I especially love about this book is that it goes beyond the typical love story as it discusses the generational trauma the Desi community faces and the toxicity around a tight-knit community willing to shun its own members. This book definitely keeps you on your toes as the story dives deep into the emotional and familial battles both Liya and Jay must tackle together to reach their happy ending.
Hope these bollywood fairytales bring some light to a seemingly dull quarantine! Happy Reading!
My name is Matangi Kumar and I from LA and I’m a senior Genetics and Genomics major at UC Davis. I love science and conducting research and I believe you don’t need to choose between science and being creative. I love writing stories, painting, and music.