Reading books with unique concepts is kind of my favorite thing ever, especially when said book is a young adult contemporary with a situation that I have never encountered before. Y’all, the publisher Algonquin has this new house called Algonquin Young Readers, which publishes you guessed it YA. Friends, I was so freakin pumped up over If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan because it’s about a lesbian Muslim girl who lives in Iran and I have never come across that before. I mean, perhaps my reading is very narrow and that’s why. Still, I saw it up and netgalley and immediately had to request. I inhaled If You Could Be Mine, feeling on edge for most of the reading experience.
Sahar’s best friend Nasrin is about to get married. Normally, this would not be such a huge deal. The problem, though, is that Sahar is in love with Nasrin. Unfortunately, the two cannot be together because being gay is basically against the law in Iran and Sahar could be killed because of it. Meanwhile, she’s also taking care of her dad, as her mom died of a heart attack. Her dad is suffering from depression. On top of that, Sahar must study very, very hard to pass her exams and earn a place at the University of Tehran and become a doctor. OH and she has to come up with a way to stop the wedding so that she can still be with her love, Nasrin. Basically Sahar is SOL.
Even though I cringed pretty consistently at Sahar’s actions in If You Could Be Mine, I still was hopeful for her. I just wanted her to move to America or Europe and have a happy ending where she could be gay without fear, and out of the closet. You see, Sahar has some pretty dumb, risky ideas to stop the wedding. Yet, at the same time, I could understand her foolish ideas because when you are in love you want to be with that person no matter what, and sometimes when you are panicked you might do stupid things. Even though I wanted to have a little chat with her about what is silly and what is not, I empathized with her and her problems. Sahar is the sort of character who works very hard at school and at home. She’s level headed for the MOST part, except when she’s backed into a corner. I couldn’t help but actually like her.
I loved the setting in If You Could Be Mine. I mean, I’ve read like 2 books set in Iran – this one and Persepolis I. As a reader, I find the Middle East fascinating and interesting. I want to know more about the various subcultures and countries there. And I am one of those people who honestly and truly believes that the more Middle Eastern people portrayed as sympathetic and human in books, the less we ‘other’ those people. And ugh, I hate myself for saying ‘those people’ but I have brain phrase block. Anyways, I just loved that this book showed Sahar as a fully realized person with legit problems. I don’t know what I am trying to say, maybe that I liked that Farizan humanizes someone from a group that is often demonized. Anyways.
The book goes pretty quick, again it’s another of those single sitting reads. I did find myself getting pretty upset and irritable over Nasrin and how she would use Sahar to get attention. The whole time I was like what does Sahar even see in this girl. However, I did LOVE reading about Sahar’s cousin Ali, who is gay and awesome. I mean, this dude smuggles in DVDs, he holds wild parties, and he has all these connections. He is wicked cool, so I was excited whenever he showed up. So, really, my emotions while reading swung all over the place from annoyed to sad to humored. OH and I felt a lot of dread when Sahar was coming up with a certain plan to stop the wedding.
In all, If You Could Be Mine was a unique and decent young adult book. I think a few of the themes were universal — feeling like you don’t belong, annoyance with parents, and young love. The setting is great and definitely one I want more of in YA — more YA books not set in America PLEASE. In all, I’d definitely recommend Farizan’s book to any fan of contemporary YA.
Disclosure: Received for review via Netgalley
Other reviews of If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan:
As The Crowe Flies And Reads – “ I applaud Sara Farizan and Algonquin for producing a novel that is sure to make some young readers think about their world in a new way”