Lovetorn by Kavita Daswani is the young adult book for those whose mothers love books by Shobhan Bantwal, the wonderful author of books (like The Full Moon Bride) about love that either are set in India or feature families from India.
In Lovetorn, Shalini, her mother and her sister have just arrived in the United States to be with their father. He is excited and proud of the job he was hired to do, and he plans to live and work in the USA for two years and then return to India to success and much respect.
Shalini’s younger sister has no problem acclimating and making friends. It’s not so easy for Shalini, and her first few weeks in high school are very unpleasant. Other students make fun of her clothes, her accent, and her unibrow.
It’s only when she meets a girl of Indian descent (whose father is friends with Shalini’s father’s boss) that Shalini makes a true friend. Renuka helps Shalini adjust to American customs and encourages her to find her own niche at school.
That friendship gives Shalini the strength to join a group of students helping women in developing countries. It’s through this group that Shalini makes friends and meets a guy she really likes.
There’s one problem with meeting a guy she likes — Shalini is engaged and has been engaged since she was about three years old. She loves her fiancee, Vikram, but she’s known him her whole life and known her whole life that he is her future.
What if she wants a different future? Can she bear to disappoint her father and Vikram himself? Things come to a head when Vikram pays a surprise visit to America. Shalini must decide whether to honor her family’s promise of marriage or find out what her heart truly feels.
Although the plot sounds cheesy, this is really a well-written book with strong character description, a strong plot, good subplots (her mother’s depression, for one), and a realistic ending.
The reader will learn quite a bit about the Indian culture and its continuing subjugation of women, which is demonstrated in the fact that decisions are made about families without any input from the women; the women do the cooking and cleaning and basically cater to the men, and they allow the men to make all the decisions. Shalini’s mother is bitter about that and rightly so.
This book is available at your local independent bookstore. In the Chicago area, try Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville and Downer’s Grove, The Book Stall at Chestnut Court in Winnetka, or The Book Bin in Northbrook.
This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, HarperTeen, for review purposes.