"Written in the Stars" by Aisha Saeed

Naila Rahman has grown up with conservative immigrant parents who have always allowed her the freedom to make her own decisions in all areas except for one - marriage.  As is their cultural tradition, Naila will have an arranged marriage, her parents choosing her husband for her.  

While Naila has always been the perfect daughter, doing well in school and being respectful of her parents, she is hiding one secret from them that will change her life forever if it gets out.  Naila is in love with Saif, a boy at school.  And though Saif is from the same background as she is, her parents will never allow the relationship.

When they do find out about Saif, their anger at Naila can’t be contained.  Convinced that she has turned her back on everything they have taught her, they take her on a trip back home to Pakistan.  But this isn’t a vacation for Naila and her family.  They are going there to find her a husband and if they do, Naila will not return to America.  

Will Naila be able to escape a marriage she doesn’t want to be a part of it and make it back to Saif?  Or has her fate already been determined for her?

Written in the Stars, by Aisha Saeed, is a heart-wrenching young adult novel, about a clash of cultures and a young woman’s determination to make her life her own at the sake of family and tradition.

This is such a moving book.  Even though it is not my culture, I have such a personal connection to it because I know many women from the same background as Naila.  And of those women, some are in happily arranged marriages, some in difficult arranged marriages, some who were able to choose their own marriage from the start, and some who had to fight to choose their own marriage.  This is a very complicated issue for those of us who don’t have the practice of arranged marriage in our culture.  But I think we can all understand a little bit what it is like to want to make your own path when others are trying to forge it for you.

The characters of Naila and Saif are the kind of characters I want in a young adult novel.  They possess a maturity that a lot of people don’t think teenagers are capable of these days and their young romance definitely took me back to my high school days.  On top of that, they represent the many teenagers who find themselves caught between the culture they live in and the culture their parents grew up in.  Saeed writes these characters brilliantly.

From there, this becomes such an emotional novel.  Naila’s parents go to great lengths to get her to do what they want her to do.  It’s not that Naila is willingly being disobedient but there is great pressure on her parents to do what they think is right according to their traditions.  I think the strength of this novel is not that it paints the parents or the culture out to be a terrible thing, but that it looks at it honestly and cautiously.  

There was so much in this book that was heart-breaking for me because on a daily basis I encounter girls like Naila and people like her parents.  For the most part, these issues work out for the best of both sides but there were will always be girls forced into the situation like Naila was.  I commend Saeed for writing such an honest and brilliant novel.  I can only imagine how much it means for girls in Naila’s situation to be able to see their stories on the page (ahem, why we need diverse books.)

I highly recommend this book.  This story could have been told in a number of ways and in different genres but the young adult genre was the way to go.  This is one YA novel that adults should definitely be reading.  The style may not be what you typically read, but the story will move you and educate you.


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