When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon is a familiar teen romance, with a cultural twist. Two Indian-American teens are thrown together by their traditional parents who want to arrange their marriage. For romantic Rishi, who loves to please his parents and reveres his cultural heritage, this is a great set-up. Stubborn, rebellious, independent Dimple, however, wants to carve out a different, less domestic path than the one her parents dream of for her. She wants a career in coding and web development. Boys don’t interest her, and marriage is the furthest thing from her mind.
Her parents’ solution is simple. They just won’t tell Dimple about the marriage bit. Better yet, they won’t tell her about Rishi at all. Instead, they grant her request to attend a popular summer program for web development which Rishi will be attending as well. They’ll meet, get to know each other, and surely they will both see how compatible they are…maybe even fall in love. However, when Dimple finds out what her parents have done behind her back, she isn’t inclined to give Rishi the time of day.
Over the six weeks at the web development program, with Rishi as her assigned partner, Dimple finds herself drawn to him more and more, in spite of herself. While they work intently on their project, they learn about each other’s dreams, encourage each other’s passions, and find in each other things they never knew they were looking for. Dimple falls for Rishi as hard as he has fallen for her, but she’s terrified that she won’t have room for the love she feels for him and the passion she has for a career. She’s certain that she’ll have to give up either Rishi or coding, and she’s just as certain that losing either one of them might kill her.
I had high hopes for When Dimple Met Rishi. In addition to being a New York Times bestseller, the book looked like an adorable, diverse romance. I’m a sucker for a good love story, and I get excited to read about other cultures and lifestyles. Indian culture happens to be a favorite of mine. Despite its potential, When Dimple Met Rishi fell flat on its face. The story concept was cute, but the execution was completely lacking. All the romance and diversity in the world can’t save a badly-done story.
While I liked the characters of Rishi and Dimple, their romance was far too predictable. Of course, everyone knows they’ll end up together at the end–it’s a romance novel after all. That doesn’t mean that the reader should know everything that’s going to happen and how it’s going to get there. Many elements were clichéd and over done. The rest of the characters, particularly the trendy, rich bullies, were entirely one-dimensional. Rishi and Dimple had very few obstacles to face, and when they did come up against trouble, it was exaggerated, or they overcame it too quickly.
The writing itself was a problem, too. It’s starting to become a pet peeve of mine, when authors explain a thing to death. Give us readers a little credit for putting two and two together. Don’t spell everything out for us. Also, don’t tell us everything… show us! One of my favorite quotes on writing is by Anton Chekhov: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining, show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Sandhya Menon told me over and over in When Dimple Met Rishi that the moon was shining, and hardly ever acknowledged the broken pieces of glass.
On the other hand, some little details or turns of phrase were done to death. Rishi rubbed the back of his neck at least once every chapter. The wide roundness of Dimple’s eyes was so heavily emphasized, she started to sound like a cartoon character. Every smile, laugh, or sigh was a ‘careful, hopeful thing,’ or a ‘quick, breathless thing,’ or a ‘heavy, tired sort of thing.’ Trite repetitions like these provide a source of irritation throughout the novel.
Overall, I can’t recommend the book. It merits no praise from a literary standpoint, and the plot didn’t move me enough to make up for the other failings. That said, the story was just cute enough that I didn’t set it aside unfinished (I have to really hate a book to do that). If you’re looking for a quick, light romance with an infusion of cultural variety, When Dimple Met Rishi might be the book for you.
Content Note (for my conservative or sensitive readers): Although When Dimple Met Rishi is Young Adult fiction, there were a few scenes with sexual content. The scenes were not very detailed or lengthy, but it wasn’t G-rated.