- Release Date : August 20th 2013
- Genre : Literary Fiction
- Publisher : Algonquin For Young Readers
- Pages : 256
Synopsis: 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.
If You Could Be Mine is not only the debut novel of Sarah Farizan but also the first YA release for Algonquin’s newest imprint, Algonquin BooksFor Young Readers.
Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend Nasarin most of her life and will do anything to be with her, but the romantic relationship between the two girls is forbidden by law. Sahar’s only chance to be with the one she loves is to have a government-approved sexual reassignment surgery to fix her “illness.”
Without context this might sound like speculative fiction, but this is the reality of modern day men and woman living in Iran. A little background; the act of homosexuality is illegal in Iran and even punishable by death, however the government will help pay for sexual reassignment surgery to cure their “illness”, but the lives of transsexuals is far from easy.
The girls in this book are polar opposites. Sahar, our narrator, comes from a working-class family and is struggling to be a teenager while also cooking and cleaning for her father, who has fallen into a depression since the death of her mother. Nasrin on the other hand is rich, popular and beautiful. She comes from a rich family where even Sahar admits that she has been spoiled.
Sahar was as great character. She is kind, non-judgmental, and also a little self-conscious. I particularity like how she
wants to be a cardiologist so she can save other children from
losing their parents from heart disease like she did.
On the other hand, I felt that Nasarin was too idealized to be believable When you have a character as dimensional as Sahar, Nasarin just seemed like an archetype. She is the predictably popular girl and everyone in the book seems set on making her happy. This is sort of a big problem as her being Sahar’s love interest is the motivator behind the whole plot.
What the novel explores best is showcasing Sahar’s main conflict in this novel, which isn’t so much with her sexuality (she has accepted it) but facing the decision if she is willing to undergo sexual reassignment. It was refreshing that Sahar was accepting of herself and who she is, she never doubts how she loves as wrong. I don’t want to give to much away but I like how this book really takes apart the idea of gender.
Sahar often fantasizes about how great it would be to me married to Nasarin as a man but, what stood out to me was when she realizes that if she was a man she could be allowed more freedom in Iran. Inversely, this also made me think about how the transgender female character in this book, Parveen, might of had to deal with having to suddenly cover-up.
Because this book will have a mostly western audience the writing is structured in a way that makes sure the reader understands Iranian culture. Despite being a first person narrative, Sahar will define or explains what some Iranian foods and clothing are. This technique works and falls in some places.
Algonquin does consider its line to be literary fiction, and while the term “literary” might make some YA fans uneasy, I found this novel, while more serious in theme and theme, it wasn’t so dense and dramatic that even the occasional reader wouldn’t enjoy it.
If You Could Be Mine encompasses the stories we hear on the news and personalizes them into a complex and heartbreaking story of what is means to be in love with someone.
At Book Expo America 2013, Algonquin BFYR editor, Elise Howard, described this book best by calling it the “The universal story of
being in love with someone. . . that the whole world is telling you is wrong for you and you know it’s right but you also know the world is never going to give you a chance to explore that.”
This book was featured at The BEA YA Editor’s Buzz panel. You can watch Elise Howard speak about it here