“Winnie Mehta was never really convinced that Raj was her soul mate, but their love was written in the stars. Literally, a pandit predicted Winnie would find the love of her life before her eighteenth birthday, and Raj meets all the qualifications. Which is why Winnie is shocked when she returns from her summer at film camp to find her boyfriend of three years hooking up with Jenny Dickens. 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. Dev is smart and charming, and he challenges Winnie to look beyond her horoscope and 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 find her perfect ending, Winnie will need a little bit of help from fate, family, and of course, a Bollywood movie star.”
Before we get into my review lets just talk about some things. It might sound a little crazy to everyone but never have I ever read a YA book by a South Asian woman before. As a Pakistani woman that baffles me, like how is that possible? I don’t think I’ve even ever come across such a thing until I saw My So-Called Bollywood Life on the WHSmith website, therefore, I automatically had to buy it. Maybe this is a, me problem, where I just haven’t been looking hard enough for authors who have a similar background and culture to myself but I know for a fact that there is a lack of diversity in the book world and we definitely need more books like this one and the ones that already exist we need to do a much better job of making them visible and more easily available and accessible.
Nisha Sharma’s debut YA novel My So-Called Bollywood Life is what I would class as a teenage rom-com starring an Indian American teenage girl Winne Mehta. She is a film enthusiast who dreams of getting her Bollywood style love story. Being from an Indian family there are certain religious and cultural tradition that her family follows. They believe in astrology and that birth charts can predict your future so it is very interesting to see how out Winne navigates with coming to terms with fate/destiny.
I love the family dynamics in this book it’s the perfect balance of what a loving family should look like. Winnie’s grandma might actually be my favourite character. I think South Asian grandmas are just really funny in general with their sassiness and those one-liners that they pull out of nowhere. I love that she speak in Punjabi throughout it makes it more delightful and adds to the charm of the book. I love Winnie’s relationship with her dad it is so wholesome and it is so cute that she gets her love of Bollywood films from him.
The layout of this book is something I really enjoyed. Each chapter starts with a mini-review of a classic Bollywood movie by Winne herself and it somewhat sets the tone for each of the chapters which I believe is very cleverly done by Nisha Sharma. As someone who wasn’t brought up on Bollywood and hasn’t actually ever seen a single Bollywood movie in their life, I was able to follow with ease and understand all the references which I really appreciate. So even as an outsider to the culture you can very easily develop an understanding of who Winne is and how she was brought up.
I really liked the fact that most of the main characters besides one maybe two are Indian. Both Winne’s love interests are Indian. I am not going to lie I think that is what excited me the most about this book. You read stories and watch tv shows about girls of different cultures in America and the UK who somehow fall in love with a white guy. Like there’s nothing wrong with that, you do you boo but this is not a hugely common thing. so it’s good to see some accurate representation that is relatable.
I’ll have to give My So-Called Bollywood Life a score of 3.5/5. I have nothing against this book it’s super cute, funny and so damn relatable! But I must say at one point I put the book down and didn’t really pick it up and finish it until two months later. I would still recommend giving Winnie’s story a read because there are so many girls out there who haven’t yet seen themselves visibly represented in literature before and this book is a step forward in the right direction.