Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Age Group: Young Adult
Source: Won from Claire Legrand's #ARCAPALOOZA (thank you!)
Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.
So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin’s parents announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.
Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution. In Iran, homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman’s body is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. As a man, Sahar could be the one to marry Nasrin. Sahar will never be able to love the one she wants, in the body she wants to be loved in, without risking her life. Is saving her love worth sacrificing her true self?
Summary from Goodreads.
I feel like everytime I start a negative review, I begin with saying that I wanted to love the book so badly. But it's always true. Based on the summary, I really expected a book that would make my cry, hold my breath, and most importantly, think. But I could barely get past the writing.
There are just so. many. infodumps. Page after page after page. The reader is told nearly everything, while shown nearly nothing (One example of this is the setting, which otherwise would have been a part I praised. But all of the policies, the culture, is explained. I wanted to learn about Iran in a way that feels natural within the story.) A lot of the book, Sahar is just in her own head, which would have been fine if her inner monologue hadn't been so erratic, full of non sequiturs and therefore disjointed. The writing style is also simplistic, which makes Sahar sound years younger than she is supposed to be.
I couldn't even get behind Sahar and Nasrin's relationship. Narsin is depicted as shallow, selfish, and spoiled. It doesn't seem like a relationship worthy of sacrifices because Sahar is consistently more annoyed with Nasrin than infatuated with her- heck, it doesn't even seem like a healthy friendship.
There are other relationships, like that between Sahar and her father, that are better developed and give insight into Sahar's character. But again, I would have loved if that had been explored more. Also, the pacing (for both Sahar and Nasrin's and Sahar and her father's relationship) needed to be smoothed over so that the reader can be truly invested in the characters.
My main problem is basically that everything in If You Could Be Mine is overly simplified. I was hoping to see themes of gender and sexuality really explored and they were just glossed over. The ending is so neat with *Spoiler* everyone achieving the closest thing to a happy ending that they can. *Spoiler End* It doesn't feel realistic- really, it just feels contrived.
Despite all this, I want to love this book. I mean, it features a diverse protagonist, is set in a country that isn't usually featured in YA, and has a plot summary that should have been amazing. Unfortunately, it just doesn't deliver.
If you've read If You Could Be Mine, what was your reading experience? If you haven't, have you ever wished you liked a book more than you did?