If You Could Be Mine

Title: If You Could Be Mine

Author: Sara Farizan. This is her first novel.

Genre: Young Adult, Romance

Readers: Stay-at-home moms Marina, Katie and Colleen B.; attorney Elizabeth H. and non-profit director Kimberly.

Summary: 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.

Our Take: This debut novel shows promise and takes a unique look at a teenage romance. Some of our readers found it rewarding but others thought it didn’t live up to its premise.

Marina

There’s nothing quite like a novel to plunge your senses into a mysterious land you may never visit, or a person you may never meet.  I doubt I’ll ever travel to Iran, but I got a taste of what life is like there, in the pages of If You Could Be Mine.  The teenage love affair that is doomed is a frequent theme in novels, yet it is rare when it is literally punishable by death, as it is for homosexuals in Iran.  She sees a possible way out of her quandary, by getting a sex change.  Surprisingly, her homeland condones this kind of operation.  Even more shocking is the homophobia that some of the transgender characters feel towards homosexuals.  Our heroine’s choices about the these issues are explored in a direct and honest manner.

My heart ached for Sahar, the main character, while my mind easily predicted the plot’s conclusions.  Even though this was an interesting book, it lacked a certain depth.  Perhaps this is typical of young adult novels, which I rarely read.  I wish that the reader got more than a glimpse into Sahar’s soul.  A person is more than just their sexual orientation.  Of course the repercussions of being a lesbian in that society is the main theme, however I longed for an in-depth exploration of her feelings about more than just her love interest.  This was a very interesting book that could have been so much more.

Grade: B  

 

Katie

If You Could Be Mine is the story of Sahar and Nasrin, two teenage girls in love who live in Iran. They must keep their relationship a secret, because homosexuality is illegal in Iran. When Nasrin’s parents arrange her marriage, Sahar is devastated and will do anything she can to keep her relationship.

I was very interested in this story, and how it is to be LGBT in another culture.  Some of the scenes were very touching and well-written.  But I also found it frustrating; the relationship between the girls seemed unequal to start with, and the lengths Sahar was intending to go to seemed unrealistic to me. I had to remind myself that these are teenagers and they don’t act logically, but it still didn’t always ring true to me. It was an interesting read, if an imperfect one.

Grade: B

 

Colleen B.

This story is about a teen girl who grew up in Iran who falls in love with her best friend who happens to be a girl.  This isn’t even really a love story.  I felt it to be more about childhood friendship, a little bit of lust and barely any conflict.  This book had so much potential.  I felt like it was rushed and never quite came together the way I would have liked it to.  I felt like this was a story where nothing felt like it was even resolved.

I thought there could have been so much more development with the lead character Sahar and the struggles she faced.  There needed to be more told about Nasrin and her family.  More about their “relationship.” I honestly think this book needed to have about 100-200 more pages full of relationships, romance and conflict – lots more conflict!

I really needed more out of this book and felt let down in the end.

Grade: C

 

Elizabeth H.

Plot in a nutshell: Sahar is in love with her best friend Nasrin. This would be great, except they’re both girls and this is Tehran. Not so great.

To me, it read like a queer YA take on the Persian novel MY UNCLE NAPOLEON (which I loved). In both there is an adolescent pining for a love that cannot be, due in part to the beloved’s impending marriage to someone more suitable.

In IF YOU COULD BE MINE, the main characters are not likeable; the narrator is a sad sack and the object of her affection is a spoiled brat. Sure, they’re adolescent girls (narcissism is not unexpected), but I struggled to imagine a reader wanting to identify with either of them. Example: “She’s pretty,” Nasrin says. She looks annoyed, but on her, jealousy is adorable.

Um, no. This reader had just spent the last 164 pages trying to like–if not Nasrin, because it’s impossible–then at least Sahar. Perhaps if there had been a nice or charming or caring Nasrin, I could have understood why Sahar loved her. Since there wasn’t, Sahar comes across as just…pathetic. The few examples of Nasrin not being selfish (events in the past) don’t even come across as genuine.

The most interesting characters are secondary, but they can’t carry the book.

It’s not fair to compare Farizan with Pezeshkzad (who was around 50 when his book was published). But without the perspective, authorial maturity, and humor of My Uncle Napoleon, which provided counterpoint to the depressing nature of the impending arranged marriage, If You Could Be Mine is a bit like watching a car crash in slow motion.

As much as I like terse, stripped-down prose, the Dick-and-Jane sentence structure (I don’t know why, unless the assumption is that with a few words in Farsi thrown in, American readers can’t understand?) barely kept me reading on. I hate being patronized, and that went double when I was a teenager.

For all that, there is something about Farizan’s writing that is compelling. She’s just not there with this novel. Not yet.

Grade: C

 

Kimberly

The description of If You Could Be Mine notes that this is a young adult (YA) novel. Is that because the main characters are in their late teens? The subject matter, however, is certainly more adult than what I would think constitutes YA. Addressing political oppression, homophobia, grief, sexuality, and gender reassignment, If You Could Be Mine takes on an array of mature and important topics. Well-written and engaging, this book tells the story of Sahar, a young woman in love with her female best friend, Nasrin, in a society where such love is shunned and criminalized. Faced with Nasrin’s impending wedding, Sahar explores a drastic way for them to stay together.

Author Sara Farizan depicts Sahar’s journey, and the people who surround and support her with sensitivity. She also describes a culture of hypocrisy and contradiction, which is interesting to readers looking to better understand Iran. Plus, her messages about forgiveness and acceptance are important for both YA and adult readers.

Farizan does an excellent job with her debut novel, and I very much enjoyed it.

Grade: A

Read Also: If You Could Be Mine is a great addition to the many books about women living in modern-day Iran, including Reading Lolita in Tehran and Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing up Iranian in America and American in Iran.

 

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