Written in the Stars

304p. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399171703.
Gr 9 Up—Naila is a Pakistani American high school senior. As the story opens, her greatest trouble is the risk of going to the prom with her high school sweetheart against the wishes of her protective and conservative parents. She does anyway, her parents find out, and their reaction is swift and extreme: the family departs immediately for Pakistan and negotiates an arranged marriage for Naila. Her impassioned struggle against the constraints of an arranged marriage is contrived in places, but it is a compelling story nonetheless. This is a cross-cultural eye opener; since Naila had never left the US until she was 18, her first-person account resonates in its explanations of the rituals, especially how they would look and feel from an American point of view. Yet the setting is pure Pakistani, with culturally rich descriptions of Naila's extended family, their cuisine, and strongly held beliefs. The prose is simple and straightforward. Although the book's hallmark is not text complexity, the spare prose is more evocative than stilted: Saeed shows rather than tells, allowing readers to imagine how Naila must feel. There is some violence and sex, both appropriate to the context and the age of the protagonist. A good choice for libraries looking to diversify their shelves.—Amy Thurow, New Glarus School District, WI
High-school senior Naila's college plans are derailed when her conservative Pakistani American parents catch her attending prom and whisk her away to Pakistan for a "visit." To her increasing horror, Naila realizes that her parents intend to force her into marriage with a Pakistani man. Saeed's suspenseful, emotional novel is elevated by Naila's intelligent voice and her unwillingness to become a victim.

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