Review: My So-Called Bollywood Life – Nisha Sharma
by Nisha Sharma
Publisher: Crown BFYR
Publication Date: May 15, 2018
Genres: Young Adult
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
Winnie Mehta was never really convinced that Raj was her soulmate, but their love was written in the stars. Literally, a pandit predicted Winnie would find the love of her life before her 18th birthday, and Raj meets all of the qualifications. Which is why Winnie is shocked to return from her summer at film camp to find her boyfriend of three years hooking up with Jenny Dickens. Worse, Raj is crowned chair of the student film festival, a spot Winnie was counting on for her film school applications. As a self-proclaimed Bollywood expert, Winnie knows this is not how her perfect ending is scripted.
Then there’s Dev, a fellow film geek, and one of the few people Winnie can count on to help her reclaim control of her story. Dev is smart charming, and challenges Winnie to look beyond her horoscope to find someone she’d pick for herself. But does falling for Dev mean giving up on her prophecy, and her chance to live happily ever after? To get her Bollywood-like life on track, Winnie will need a little bit of help from fate, family, and of course, a Bollywood movie star.
Like an expertly choreographed Bollywood dance scene, Nisha Sharma’s off-beat love story dazzles in the lime light.
First off, serious heart-eyes for this cover. I’m a humongous fan of illustrated covers, and I’ve seen some amazing ones lately in YA, but this is my new favorite. Like the story itself, it’s delightfully over-the-top. There’s a prophecy, lots of Bollywood movies (with an extra helping of Shah Rukh Khan), a musical number (at a school dance, of course), a loving and supportive family, and so many laughs.
“He shook his finger at the screen, and the gold ring on it glinted. “I think I understand. Your and your parents’ star charts are the most beautiful I’ve ever read. You’re afraid that if it comes true, you’ll be disappointed because it’s a choice you didn’t make. But wouldn’t you be equally disappointed if it doesn’t come true? Finding a jeevansathi is a gift that many people aren’t fortunate enough to receive.”
Jeevansathi. Life partner. Soul mate. She looked over at her dresser and saw the promise of Raj’s silver bracelet. Keep cool, she thought. Keep it cool. He may be super accurate, but he was wrong about this. He was wrong about her.”
Winnie’s family believes in prophecies because one correctly predicted that Winnie’s parents would find each other. Winnie’s is that she would meet her true love before she turned 18, that his name would start with an “R,” and that he’d give her a silver bracelet. She’s always assumed it would be Raj, a boy who goes to the same New Jersey high school as her. Winnie’s not quite happy with having a prophecy dictate her life, however, and is almost relieved when they break up after he cheats on her over the summer before senior year. Problem is, they still have to see each other at film club, where they’re co-chairs. Raj, naturally, realizes too late what he’s missing, and tries to win her back. The problem is, everything he does makes things worse for Winnie. When she reconnects with Dev, a fellow film buff, she’s ready to wash her hands of the prophecy once and for all. But are things really that simple?
“As much as I love Bollywood damsels in distress, I don’t need saving. I’m my own hero.” She flipped her hair over her shoulder. It was a flirt move and such a cliché line, but he’d given her an opening, and any self-respecting film buff would’ve taken it.”
Winnie is absolutely adorable. She knows what she wants out of life – well, she’s pretty sure at least – and worries about the prophecy holding her back. I thought Raj was a bit of jerk, loved her best friend Bridget, and thought Dev was absolutely 80s teen movie boyfriend perfect. I loved the humor in the book, especially how Winnie kept trying to find a Bollywood movie to help problem-solve every situation she got herself in to. While I’ve seen a few Bollywood films, I’m not as much of a film buff as Winnie is, and I think each film is explained well enough that someone with only a cursory knowledge of them would be just fine. I will say, the dream sequences that involved scenes from movies I’ve seen were extra hilarious.
A lot of the “ethnic” YA I read as a kid involved how second-gen kids had to separate their family’s culture from the person they were outside their home. I was so happy this wasn’t a problem for Winnie! Winnie is proud of her heritage, and not afraid to show it. As a bonus, Winnie’s family is amazingly supportive of her – I think it helps that her dad is also a big Bollywood film fan, even going so far as to have a family film night at almost midnight when Winnie is having a rough time and needs a distraction. Winnie’s nani (her grandma) was also a hoot, and I loved the scenes where they went dress shopping or brought samosas to support her.
“People love the movies because of the romance, the emotion, and the passion the characters feel. You get sweaty palms, a clenched stomach, a pounding chest. It’s easy to get swept up in the magic as long as you have a flexible suspension of disbelief.”
Overall – is this completely over the top and predictable, with a cartoonishly evil villain and a sappy and sweet resolution? Yes, but so are some of the best Bollywood movies. I had an immensely fun time reading this book, and I cannot wait to see what Ms. Sharma writes next!