- Nandini Bajpai
- Debut Novel, stand alone; she’s written children’s books in India!
- Genre: YA Contemporary
- Heritage: Indian-American
- IG: @nandinirb; www.nandinibajpai.com
- Release: 9/10/2019
- Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
- Favorite Character: Noah, Simi’s BFF & ride-or-die fo’ lyfe! I love how invested he was in Simi and his friendship though there were times I wanted to shake him to wake him up! He’s a good friend and they are hard to come by!
- Favorite Quote: “And it’s the Amandas of the world who choose who else should matter. But I’m tired of waiting around for someone to deem me worthy. Nope. This year, I’m taking it into my own hands, and so is Noah.“-Simi. *Slams Fist On The Keyboard* DAMN RIGHT SIMI! YOU BETTA TELL EM GURL! I felt this so much as someone who often felt like an outsider (I sometimes still do) and was bullied as a kid/teen. No one should determine your worth but you and you betta make the price high!
Before I go into this review, I have a fun story! While waiting on the signing line for Jason Reynolds at bookcon, Nandini was standing in front of myself and another lady. I don’t know what brought on the conversation but she casually mentioned that she wrote a book & I can’t remember if she just mentioned the name first or if I asked so I could look out for it but when she said “A Match Made In Mehendi“…Y’all…*dramatic pause* I almost screamed in this woman’s face but I kind of contained myself & was my usual excited self and told her that her book was one of my most anticipated reads of the year and even had it written on my dry erase board (I shit you not, I have a list of books with their release dates by the entrance of my apartment, LOL, #JudgeMe #IDC). Nandini was extremely cool and it made me even more excited to support her work. A Match Made In Mehendi was definitely worth the wait! You can find a picture from when we met at the end of this post!
A Match Made In Mehendi had me cracking up from start to almost finish. I felt like if Simi were a person, we’d be like close relatives or possibly sisters who actually got along. Where Simi is a visual artist, I was all about writing (I can draw but I’m not awesome at it). Her sense of humor, klutziness, resolve and love of bubble tea (she even said my favorite kind people) are aspects that I heavily related to. Like Simi, I also had my BFF for many years going into school that shared in my misery in high school and that would hype me up & I would do the same for her… we also were hardheaded about things we weren’t ready to accept so some epic disagreements were had (20+ years later, we are still best friends and I wouldn’t trade her; I imagine Simi & Noah would be the same). My best friend and her family also always fed me like Simi’s family did for Noah (I love to eat so this was okay by me as well). I saw bits of my own life in this story that made me think back on my high school days (mostly good ones because if I thought on bad ones, it would’ve really dampened this book’s lightheartedness).
I loved how Simi spoke about the hierarchy (as it seemed) of the school (see favorite quote for reference). So many of us have had our fair share of run ins with the Amandas-Of-The-World (as teens and as adults). The Amandas I faced when I was younger were actually not of the Caucasian persuasion but sometimes we are rougher and more cruel to our own…and later on in life (i.e. undergrad), I learned about Caucasian persuasion Amandas. To be honest, any of the Amandas I’ve encountered can catch these hands because…reasons *shrugs* =0/ Annnnnnd moving on. This story depicts the belief that so many kids have that their worth is hinged upon this one person or group of people and what that belief can do to a person. What I hope that teens gain from this book is knowing & recognizing your own worth is determined by you and ONLY YOU. Tell them bishes about themselves/read them for filth then tell them where they can put their unsolicited opinions of you. I was extremely proud, like big sister proud, of how Simi found her voice and how she used it in certain situations.
One of the things that also struck me is the level of dedication Simi & Noah had for their friendship (I know I talked a bit about it but I want to talk more about it). The way they held space for each other, rode for each other and kept it real with one another at the right moments (meaning that they knew each other so well that they knew when was a good & bad time to approach a subject). It was beautiful to read and see play out on the page. I stan for friendships like that because I have a few like that IRL (shocking, I know…or maybe not, I’m actually quite lovable once you get to know me, LOL..I’m a Hufflepuff for crying out loud)! The way they leaned on each other was also great, they saw each other’s strengths and pumped each other up so their weak points weren’t things that sent them spiraling. I’m all about the hype up so Noah has my heart on that. Moral of the story: Gas each other up, it makes the dark moments seem lighter! So if you have a friend going through a tough time, call them up or show up at their door step in a non-creepy way & hype them up…be the Noah to their Simi and let them do the same for you!
I also enjoyed the role that culture and tradition played in this book and how we may push back so much at it that we can miss the Beauty of it. We may not fall in line with it but it is ingrained in us, in some way, shape or form. For Simi, it’s the matchmaking gift/being a Vichole (which, if I liked being set up, I wouldn’t mind having someone like her in my circle but alas, I don’t so if you know me, you already know not to try it), for others it could be career fields or personality traits (which can be improved upon). I think there is immense strength in non-conformity because autonomy is a thing but if you have a palpable gift, don’t look it in the face and say “nah” then shut the door before seeing if it could work for you. You may not know how it could come in handy or help in the future…but if you try it out and then decide on that “nah” then #Respeck. I enjoyed the talk of food (we established that I like to eat already) and how it brought me back to times in my best friend’s (she’s Guyanese-Indian) kitchen or living room, eating some of the foods mentioned in the book, chatting or watching Bollywood Movies/Music Videos (my favorite movie is Devdas, in case you wanted to know…I miss my best friend and the days we did this *sigh* being an adult sucks a lot of the time). Being surrounded by your friend’s family is a very special feeling (when they are nice people… I’m lucky to have friends with lovely families) that is beautifully captured in this book…I felt like I was in their family kitchen with them!
To wrap this up because I can talk a lot longer about A Match Made In Mehendi, I seriously enjoyed this book and the characters (most of them; there are so many I didn’t talk about but know there are some really great people around Simi). I finished this book so fast because I wanted to know what happened next/how certain scenarios would play out. The pacing was great and it was super funny! Go out and grab this book so you can crack up…and also get hungry like I did (so maybe have snacks near by)! Happy Reading (and snacking)!