Synopsis from Goodreads:
I’m your protagonist—Reshma Kapoor—and if you have the free time to read this book, then you’re probably nothing like me.
Reshma is a college counselor’s dream. She’s the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars. But there are plenty of perfect students in the country, and if Reshma wants to get into Stanford, and into med school after that, she needs the hook to beat them all.
What’s a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. Which is exactly what Reshma does after agent Linda Montrose spots an article she wrote for Huffington Post. Linda wants to represent Reshma, and, with her new agent’s help scoring a book deal, Reshma knows she’ll finally have the key to Stanford.
But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. And she’s already planned the perfect ending: after struggling for three hundred pages with her own perfectionism, Reshma will learn that meaningful relationships can be more important than success—a character arc librarians and critics alike will enjoy.
Of course, even with a mastermind like Reshma in charge, things can’t always go as planned. And when the valedictorian spot begins to slip from her grasp, she’ll have to decide just how far she’ll go for that satisfying ending. (Note: It’s pretty far.)
In this wholly unique, wickedly funny debut novel, Rahul Kanakia consciously uses the rules of storytelling—and then breaks them to pieces.
*I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book from Disney Hyperion. This did not influence my review of this book in anyway. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel will be on sale on August 2, 2016.*
What’s great about this novel is from the beginning you’re told the protagonist, Reshma Kapoor, is unlikeable. This at least makes a little less surprising when you discover that she’s really unlikeable. She has a few redeeming qualities but for the most part Reshma’s that girl in high school that always raised her hand in class even though she’d answered the last five questions correctly. In other words, she’s the girl you couldn’t stand.
But that didn’t stop me from loving this novel. In fact, I’d say it helped. Rahul Kanakia writes this novel in a meta way that makes you feel like Reshma is a real person trying to write her own novel. It’s written in diary style so we get all of Reshma’s real thoughts but just as I think anyone does in real life there’s a lot Reshma keeps hidden from the reader until she has to tell us the truth.
What I liked most about this novel is that it kept surprising me. Because it’s written as if Reshma is trying to write her own novel she discusses all the tropes of a typical young adult novel and what she believes her story needs to succeed. She then proceeds to do all these things in her day to day life so her novel will be good. For example she believes her novel will need a love interest, friends, a party scene, and other life experiences so she sets out to do these things.
Based on many YA novels I expected this novel to go one way and then it went totally left. Nothing about this book was predictable and although I wanted to be on Reshma’s side, I just couldn’t but I also don’t think Kankia expects you to be. I felt sympathetic towards Reshma but mostly I just wanted her to get help because she obviously has some issues she needs to work through.
There were two characters I ended up really liking though: George, the boy who lives in Reshma’s house illegally and Alex, the girl Reshma decides to make her friend. They both had interesting influences on Reshma. I won’t spoil it but I like how Reshma interacts with both of them.
Overall, I’d say this book is worth a read. It’s different than a lot of other YA novels I’ve read in the past and I’m always in support of a YA novel that has a person of color as the protagonist. I also appreciated the discussion of race, privilege, and culture in this novel and how they all played a role in the plot of this story but weren’t the main focus. Definitely check it out!
Borrow or Buy: Buy!