This heart-wrenching novel explores what it is like to be thrust into an unwanted marriage. Has Naila’s fate been written in the stars? Or can she still make her own destiny?
Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up—but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating—even friendship with a boy—is forbidden. When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed—her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late.
If I had to sum up my take on Written in the Stars in one word, it would be refreshing. Aisha Saeed brought up an issue that has caused friction in families and individual lives for so long, which is- arranged marriages. Bringing a story such as this particular one to the forefront of the young adult world is critical. It has opened my eyes into a culture I am not too familiar with. Naila’s roots holds so much family history; one that should be held up with honor. The way Aisha brings in real life events into the story makes it easy to connect with the characters and the struggle that Naila faces. I enjoyed her form of storytelling and how she intertwined her friends’ stories and her own cultural experiences.
As one who is close to her parents, I really felt Naila’s struggle as she was contemplating what to do. Naila was at a crossroads debating on whether to follow her heart or obey her parents. She was risking her own freedom and throughout the book you will see how far of a length her family will go to make her follow the traditional ways.
Also, Naila was not as in tuned with her cultural roots and grew up in America. I found those traits to be quite similar to my upbringing. Thus, as her family attempts to arrange her marriage in Pakistan, Naila is not only feeling weak but defeated since she is out of her element.
Throughout the book, you are just hoping and praying that Naila gets her freedom. One that she deserves more than anything. She has followed all the rules that her parents set forth before her, except for one. Naila is in love with a boy who has a tarnished family reputation. Moreover, in her culture, reputation is everything.
It shed some light on a topic that is hardly ever talked about in the United States. Majority of people do not know what happens when dealing with an arranged marriage. Some people have lucked out and have been in happy arranged marriages. However, for the ones who do not, they live a life of silence and fear. Some are in abusive relationships and yet cannot seek help for fear they will bring shame upon the family. This book reminds everyone to stand up for themselves, despite what others–even close family, will think.
Overall, this story was different and one that should be brought to the masses. Arranged marriage is a topic that does not get talked about in the public eye. It is talked behind closed doors and hushed tones. But Aisha Saeed brings this story to life and in a way that is beautifully done.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
ISBN #: 9780399171703
Length: 304 pages
More about the book and author:
At 21, Aisha Saeed agreed to an arranged marriage. Having only met the groom in person once, it was a leap of faith, and a lucky one, because she ended up happily married to someone who turned out to be the love of her life.
Her debut novel, WRITTEN IN THE STARS (March 24, 2015; Nancy Paulsen Books), tells a different story: the story of a Pakistani-American girl named Naila, who, at odds with her family, finds herself caught in a situation beyond her control: trapped in a foreign country, being forced to marry someone she doesn’t love. Naila must find a way to hold on to her hope, her dreams, and her freedom.
Naila’s story, unfortunately, is more common than you might think. There are young women, even within the United States, who are or will be the victims of forced marriage. Unlike arranged marriages like Aisha’s, these women have no say. Aisha grew up with many such girls—girls who were engaged by the time they were fourteen. WRITTEN IN THE STARS is a gripping, emotionally-charged, page-turner of a read, but it’s also a nuanced look at an important cultural issue. All sides of the situation are examined—under different circumstances, Naila may have even liked and willingly married the man her family chose for her.
Aisha Saeed is a Pakistani-American writer, teacher, and attorney. She is one of the founders of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, which, since its creation in April of 2014, has taken the book world by storm, bringing awareness to the need for diversity in literature. Her writings have appeared in The Orlando Sentinel, Muslim Girl Magazine, and Rivaaj Magazine. She is a contributing author to the highly-acclaimed Love Insh’Allah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women, which features the story of her own (happily) arranged marriage. Aisha lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and two sons.
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