I could not have chosen a better book to complete my Goodreads 2015 reading challenge of 100 books!!
Written in the Stars is a beautiful eye-opening novel for anyone who is ignorant in the subject of arranged marriages. I had heard of them before and knew the basics of what it was, but as a Hispanic, it is not something I ever felt the need to really learn about. My favorite thing about reading has always been that it gives you the ability to see life through the eyes of someone who isn’t you. Through this story, I was able to see life through the eyes of a scared 17-year-old Pakistani-American girl facing a forced marriage.
“My mother always says when you fight destiny, destiny fights back. Some things, they’re just written in the stars. You can try, but you can never escape what’s meant to be.” -Naila
Although Naila’s parents are immigrants from Pakistan, she has only ever known life in Florida, USA. Living far away from their birth country has never stopped them from continuing to practice the same beliefs, religion, and culture. From the age of ten, Naila has been told that she can choose her career, her clothing, and the length of her hair, but who she will marry is not her decision to make. Her future husband will be chosen by her parents.
For a year now, Naila has been hiding her relationship with Saif who’s family is also Pakistani. In this culture, one of the most important things is not doing anything to bring shame to your family’s reputation. Unfortunately, Saif’s family is looked down upon by the rest of the community and is therefore not someone her family would even consider. When Naila’s parents find out of their relationship, they are determined that visiting their roots will change the way she feels.
Naila agrees to make the trip to Pakistan under the impression that they are there to visit family for the summer. What Naila doesn’t know is that her parents are really trying to set up her arranged marriage! Now, she is in a completely different country that is run by a different set of rules. She knows what she wants is back in America, but leaving Pakistan seems impossible when her own family has turned on her.
“I know I will forget many details of this moment, but I will never forget the slap across my face. Or my chacha storming inside, my hands upon the cold concrete floor, the metallic taste of blood in my mouth…” -Naila
I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that made me feel so helpless and angry! What upsets me the most is that Naila is such a good daughter. She is graduating salutatorian and has earned a scholarship into med school. Even with everything that is thrown at her, she doesn’t want to bring dishonor and shame to her parents. I was obviously not raised in her culture, but a hardworking and respectful 17-year-old is just a rare gem these days and it made me angry that it wasn’t enough for her parents. They cause her so much heartache and scars that will run deep psychologically.
“Maybe, I think, if I don’t look up, if I simply look down and never look up again for the rest of my life, the feelings buried within will never rise to the surface.” -Naila
Aisha Saeed, the author, made the chapters very short and it allowed the novel to feel fast-paced without being rushed or important details being overlooked. I quickly fell in love with her writing style and ability to make a story flow. She leaves an author’s note explaining how although Naila’s story is fictional, arranged marriages are very real. Pakistan is only one country out of the many, including the United States, where forced marriages happen.
“It is my hope that this novel will provide a voice for so many girls who see themselves in Naila and who shouldn’t have to suffer in silence.” -Aisha Saeed
I really enjoyed getting to see the world through the eyes of a different culture! There were words used that I was not familiar with, such as kamiz and salwar, but I never felt lost. Using context clues made it easy to put things together. However, the author includes a glossary in case you need any help!
If you’ve read this story let me know what you thought of it down below. If you haven’t but have read something similar also let me know. I fell in love with this story and I’m intrigued to read others like it!
Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed
Published by Nancy Paulsen Books
Pub Date: March 24th 2015
Format: Hardcover | Source: Purchased
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Buy the book! | Goodreads
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.