Book: If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
Release Information: 20 August 2013 from Alqonquin Young Readers
Summary (from GoodReads): In this stunning debut, a young Iranian American writer pulls back the curtain on one of the most hidden corners of a much-talked-about culture.
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.
Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution. In Iran, homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman’s body is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. As a man, Sahar could be the one to marry Nasrin. Sahar will never be able to love the one she wants, in the body she wants to be loved in, without risking her life. Is saving her love worth sacrificing her true self?
Thoughts: I wasn’t really interested in reading this book until I heard Sara Farizan speak at a BEA panel. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I almost never read contemporary that is set outside of the US. I enjoyed getting a look at life inside Iran. While I was interested in the plot enough to finish the book, I had a few major issues with it that prevented me from enjoying it.
First, the romance. Sahar loves Nasrin so much that she is willing to go through a painful and complicated surgery to become a man in order to be with her. And yet… I hated Sahar and Nasrin together. Sahar was scheming these ways that they could stay together, but she never talked to Nasrin about them. Talking to someone you want to spend the rest of your life with about your future… kind of a prerequisite for a healthy relationship. The fact that Sahar never asked Nasrin what she wanted bugged me, because it was very obvious to everyone but Sahar that Nasrin wasn’t going to give up a comfortable life for the opportunity to be with Sahar. The conclusion also left me asking “What?” I’ve hidden all my spoilers over on GoodReads.
However, there were a few characters I loved. There is a beautiful transsexual woman who helps Sahar navigate the waters of becoming a man. I thought she was the most reasonable and down to earth character in the book and it was a relief whenever she was on the page. I also loved Sahar’s cousin Ali. He’s not a good guy, but he’s good to Sahar and he made me smile.
Moments I Loved: Any scene that had Ali, I loved. Ali is not a great person–he is literally a gangster selling bootleg imports, alcohol, cigarettes, and yes, prostitutes (young ones!). He’s also the only person in the story not worried about what people think of him.
WTF Moments: Sahar and Nasrin have an encounter with the police and Sahar’s first thought is protecting Nasrin, however it is expressed as Sahar not being pretty enough to be raped instead of Nasrin. I realize that this is probably an authentic reaction for the character, but the scene made me uncomfortable (and not in the way it was supposed to). For anyone out there who isn’t sure, rape is not about attraction, it’s about power. And I really think Farizan missed a great opportunity to explore this theme.
Overall: This books strengths are its premise, setting, and supporting cast. They balance out infuriating main characters and a disappointing ending.
If You Could Be Mine gets a FakeSteph rating of…