I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed
Published by Nancy Paulsen Books on March 24th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Amazon・ Good Books・Book Depository
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.
Life is full of sadness. It’s part of being a woman. Our lives are lived for the sake of others. Our happiness is never factored in.
I’m not sure what I expected from Written in the Stars, but it definitely wasn’t what I received. Naila’s story of a forced, arranged marriage both shocked and horrified me to the point where I had to put the book down several times. It reminds me of how I felt while reading Little Peach, except I knew going into that one was going to be hard. I didn’t expect the same level of anger and heartbreak as Naila’s situation went from not-so-great to down right horrifying.
Naila is hiding a secret from her parents: She’s in love with a boy named Saif and if her parents were to find out, they’d be furious. The choosing of her husband is left to up to them, with no input from her. As a result, This may see like too much involvement for some, but for Naila culture, it’s a deep level of trust and love for her parents that motivates her to accept this… kinda. The problem is that since she has found someone who she’s fallen in love with, she no longer wants that for herself. But the worst does happen, and Naila suddenly finds herself whisked off to Pakistan, far away from the boy she loves and a life she wants.
Written in the Stars really opened my eyes to the issue of forced marriages and arranged marriages. Before reading this novel, I personally couldn’t understand why someone would be okay with any form of an arranged marriage, but Naila’s story has really shown me that a forced marriage is NOT the same thing as an arranged marriage. I really loved Saeed’s guest post at YA Highway, where she goes into detail about the different forms of arranged marriages and I encourage you to check it out and learn new things! Naila is coerced, drugged and imprisoned during her “courting process.” She doesn’t want the life that her parents are choosing for her and tries desperately to escape. This, obviously, is completely wrong and a form of abuse.
There was a part of me that understood her parents’ concern for Naila. I too grew up in a very religious household where I wasn’t allowed to go to school events and parties or out with friends. Thankfully, I was given a lot more freedom and my parents became more understanding while I was in high school. So I understood why her parents were strict: they viewed it as a way of protection for their daughter. Unfortunately, they completely crossed the line and abused the trust Naila had in them by forcing her into a marriage she didn’t want. They are a perfect example of having honorable intentions, but horrible, horrible actions through unreasonable justification. They fully believed that what they were doing was for the good of Naila and they viewed her relationship with Saif as a threat to her future. It also seemed like they were angry that Naila took away their “right” to choose her mate. There were just so many complex parts to their relationship.
What I really enjoyed was the writing style. It’s very simple in nature, which originally concerned me. But I grew to appreciate it more as the story went along because it allowed for Naila’s vulnerability to truly shine through. There weren’t any fancy prose or deeply metaphorical phrases to distract the reader from what was actually happening. Naila’s circumstance was enough to completely captivate me from beginning to end.
I also appreciated Saeed’s Author’s Note at the end that mentions forced marriages can happen in any culture, country or religion and is condemned by all. This was such an important distinction because there are some cultures and religions that get a lot of flack about arranged marriages in general. I love how she makes the reader aware that an arranged marriage is a loving arrangement between all parties and that no one should be forced to do anything they don’t want. This is also why I think it was smart that Saeed left out mentions of any of the characters’ religious beliefs. I know this may be a fear of some readers, but it was very tastefully done and Naila’s religion is not blamed for what happened to her. The only blame placed is on the people that did this to her.
To conclude, I’m so happy I read Written in the Stars because it’s helped me understand so much more about arranged marriages and forced marriages. It’s books like this that make me incredibly grateful for the We Need Diverse Books campaign to help put more books like this on the market. I’m really excited for what Saeed writes about next.
Follow the rest of the blog tour:
YA Highway – 3/24
IceyBooks – 3/25
Jessabella Reads – 3/26
Alice Marvels – 3/27
Pandora’s Books – 3/31
Pop! Goes the Reader – 4/2
The Young Folks – 4/6
Forever Young Adult – 4/7
Cuddlebuggery – 4/8
Perpetual Page Turner – 4/9
The YA Bookworm – 4/13
PenguinTeen has a really great opportunity to win signed copies of Written in the Stars! I’m super jealous of these winners! I want to live vicariously through you all!
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