To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: Jenny Han

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I enjoyed the Netflix movie (in large part due to the dreamy Noah Centineo), and when I was looking for a light book to read on a flight, I thought of this. Generally, I have found that the books that my favorite chick flick movies are based on are quite crappy, but this was a pleasant surprise.

Lara Jean Song Covey is a high schooler adjusting to change after her older sister Margot leaves for university – she is responsible for her younger sister Kitty, her feelings for Josh, Margot’s ex-boyfriend resurface, and she still isn’t comfortable driving. So when the hatbox containing her secret love letters vanishes, it makes her life topsy-turvy. Josh finds out, as does Peter Kavinsky, a boy she kissed in seventh grade and currently the ex of the high school queen. After she kisses Peter to escape from Josh, Peter suggests that they continue the lie that they are dating for a while, as it benefits both of them.

What I found surprising was how much the movie stayed true to the book. Generally, for YA chick flicks based on books, they take the kernel of the book and improvise on it, which makes the original book a bit disappointing. This book has its share of eye-rolling moments (Lara Jean’s activities to pass her time are too grade-schoolish), but the esssence of the story remains the same, and it gives more depth to the characters. Also, having a non-white protagonist was nice – I’ve barely seen that in high school YA novels. I wouldn’t recommend the book if you’ve watched the movie, but if you’re looking for a breezy high school romance, you wouldn’t do too bad with this.

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The Zoya Factor: Anuja Chauhan

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Zoya Singh Solanki is a client service rep with an ad firm, whose has no greater desire than to shoot ad films with SRK so that she can gawk at his perfect pecs. However, she is pulled away to manage a shoot for Zing Cola with the Indian cricket team, in whom she has zero interest. But, after a chance breakfast with her leads to victory on the field, some believe¬†she is a lucky charm. When her absence at the breakfast table leads to defeat, the belief deepens. And despite the captain’s strong reservations, soon she is branded a Devi and invited to accompany the cricket team to the World Cup in Australia.

I had read Anuja Chauhan’s Those Pricey Thakur Girls earlier, and found it to be a smartly written member of the Indian chick-lit genre. This book, however, crashes and burns. The problem lies with the outlining of the heroine. A thirteen-year old brain in a twenty-seven year old’s body, over the book she becomes a mess, alternating between simpering and snivelling, making one stupid decision after another, till you reach a point where your eyes have rolled out of your head into your neighbor’s bougainvillea patch. Which is a pity, since the idea of the book is novel, and it should have been a light, breezy read, instead of the melodramatic tearjerker it’s made out to be.

For all my problems with the plot, I like Anuja Chauhan’s writing. She brings out the Karol-Bagh-Delhi with refreshing ease, with liberal doses of Punjabified Hinglish. She writes with an incisive wit, and I particularly enjoyed some of the supporting cast- the feisty Monita Mukherjee, the typical-older-bro Zoravar, the Baba-Ramdev-ka-bachcha Lingnath Baba et al. The hero is a cardboard cutout, more Tiger Shroff than Siddharth Malhotra, alternating hot-and-cold on poor Zoya. Pity that the leads are so flimsy, and hence the plot puerile, else the book could have been good fun.