Publisher: Nancy Paulsen
Publication Date: March 24th 2015
My rating: 4 stars
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.
I’d had my eyes on Written in the Stars ever since my friend Siiri put it on my radar, I do like my books which deal with such realistic tough issues, but more so when done really well. I was thrilled when Written in the Stars was picked as our book club read, as I was finding it really difficult to keep my attention with any book, I needed something that would keep me really hooked, but also would be a book I would think about days afterwards and I’m glad to say that was exactly the case with this book. Of course Allie, Rashika, Siiri and I planned to read this book together, it had been so long and Written in the Stars seemed like the perfect book for a buddy read and to have never ending discussions with throughout. But Allie ended up finishing in a few hours and normally I’m the slowest reader ever, but ended up reading it in one day even before Rashika had made a start (sorry), but honestly once the story got going and things started picking up, I couldn’t put the book down until I found out how things went down.
Saeed did an incredible realistic portrayal of how difficult and horrific forced marriages could be. When I was at school I’d heard so many stories of girls being taken away on holiday by parents and then coming back married. I couldn’t imagine what it could have been like for a young person going to a foreign country and then being forced to spend the rest of their lives with a complete stranger. How frightened that individual must have been and how the parents could even do that, if they cared that much about their child like they said they did, how could they abandon their child that way? Naila’s parents were strict with her, that I could understand, they wanted what was best for her with no distractions, but their reaction to finding her with a guy at prom (okay she was meant to be having a sleepover and prepping for college at her best friend’s house and apparently Saif’s family were seen as the “black sheep”, after Saif’s sister had married out of religion). But a bit of understanding could have gone a long way instead of deciding to immediately visit Pakistan, (when you hadn’t been in 20 in years), making Naila miss graduation. I know what it feels like when families think nothing else matters when all respect has been lost from the family. As I come from an Indian family myself, maintaining the families respect and other people’s high impressions of you is vital to a lot of families, that sometimes an individual’s own opinions get completely overlooked in the process. And that is the harsh reality Naila had to deal with. I hated the way Naila was deceived in Pakistan, how she was left clueless and left with no choice at all. The little support that Naila did get along the way I appreciated, anyone who was caught helping Naila not only would they face the wrath of Naila’s parents, but her extended family too. I didn’t think things could get any worse, but it really was a scary time for Naila, I wanted Naila to get out, to be able to go and be safe in the comfort of her own home, but it really seemed an impossible situation to get out of.
I also completely lost respect for Naila’s parents as the story went on, I know they felt they had Naila’s best interests at heart, but they just made me so mad, if I was in Naila’s shoes I think I would have treated them exactly the way she was. Despite some parts of the story being really grim and scary, there were characters who really brightened up things for me and gave me the hope that things would be okay, Saif and Selma were characters who I hugely appreciated for the risks they were willing to take for Naila, but especially Saif’s resilience for not giving up and still keeping the belief in his and Naila’s relationship. Also for everything that Saif did and was willing to do for Naila, I could see and why Naila would fall for Saif.
I don’t want to say how things ended up for Naila, but honestly the last few chapters gave me serious heart palpitations. (Highlight to view spoiler) My only complaint about the ending was that I wish we had got some more detail about how they managed to make it back home, there was so much suspicion already about Saif being around, I also expected Naila’s uncle to be on the rampage. Also I wanted Naila to come face to face with her parents one more time too, we were told of an eventual meeting happening, but I wanted them to realise their daughter had become a better person without their interference. But this minor complaint aside, Written in the Stars was a book which I really appreciated reading. Saeed dealt with a really difficult subject that a lot of individuals still seem to find themselves in today in a raw and realistic manner.