Zahra Khan lives with her Bangladeshi family in Paterson, New Jersey, a family that includes her mother (Amma), a younger brother and sister, grandmother, and innumerable ‘aunties.’ Her father’s death two years ago has left its mark; they grieve him deeply while also feeling the economic toll. Amma has necessarily changed from housewife to self-employed seamstress, but the bills are always due, and Zahra has accepted the reality that college will have to wait. Zahra helps by having a job at tea shop Chai Ho, working with her best friends, twin daughters of the owner. Zahra’s mother has her heart set on ‘a good match’ for Zahra, and soon Zahra is meeting handsome, wealthy Harun Emon. But Zahra’s convinced Harun is a bad match, nothing like Nayim Aktar, Chai Ho’s new guitar-playing, dream-filled orphan dishwasher. Since both Zahra and Harun are uninterested in being matched, they agree to sabotage their parents’ plans by proving their match to be horrible over several required dates. Meanwhile, Zahra can secretly date Nayim. But soon, planning with Harun brings the two closer, and Zahra’s feeling pulled in two directions.
THOUGHTS: Zahra is an independent young woman with a strong commitment to her family; she realizes how vital each of her family–and friends–are to her. Knowledge of Bangladeshi culture would help readers, but is not necessary to follow the storyline (though a glossary picturing all of the fantastic Bangladeshi dishes would be fabulous). What is Zahra’s best choice in love–and in her future? Does it have to come down to family security vs. her dreams? Will her antics leave her with no choices at all? This is a humorous romance with strong, realistic characters, heartbreak, and a surprise twist no one sees coming. Zahra’s friends face realistic issues, as well, including college and relationship choices (one female couple is included), and they all find ways to support each other. This rom-com celebrates family, friendship and love, and is suitable for middle and high school collections.
Romance; Humor; Bangladeshi culture; Asian Americans; Bengali Americans; Muslim practices; Arranged marriages; Friendships; Mother-daughter relationships; Dating; Family.