Written in the Stars was an absolutely incredible book, and the under-represented story it told is so needed. The amount of tension it sustained throughout the story was really powerful; it was great at evoking an understanding of Naila’s feelings and situation; and powerfully details of setting and culture were conveyed within.
Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up—but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating—even friendship with a boy—is forbidden.
When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed—her parents have found her a husband and they want
her to marry him, now!
Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif … if he can find her before it’s too late.
First off, the incredible thing about the reading experience of this book was how much the author made you care. The tension and stakes were high from the start of the story, with the restrictions on Naila’s life and the issues with the disappointment of her family, but especially after Naila discovers the marriage that her parents have arranged for her, and following the consequences of this. The story was well-paced and incredibly gripping as I
feared for what would happen to her, hoped for her escape attempts to succeed, felt the burden of everything she must keep hidden, and was pained by the progression of her situation and its hopelessness. I read this in less than one day and almost one sitting.
Leading on from this, I absolutely felt for Naila all the way through. Her fears and desperation were evoked in ways equally beautiful and heartbreaking throughout, and another one of the ways that it really kept me reading. There were multiple times when I could genuinely imagine myself in a similar situation, because the pain she was undergoing was so real.
Out of the side characters, there were plenty that kept me engaged. Saif isn’t given a huge amout of depth at first, in spite of his obvious importance to the story, but his impact on Naila is clear. I really loved Selma, Naila’s cousin, and the friendship between them, which was a ray of hope throughout the story. Naila’s parents and uncle, with the awful choices they made for her, mainly incited anger in me, but they were consistently characterised with strong (and horrifying) realism. Amin, Naila’s husband, was also realistic and understandable.
Much of the book is about Pakistani culture – through Naila’s life, values and challenges as a Pakistani-American teen, to her initial impressions of Pakistan as she visits there with her family, to the horrifying reality she faces there with her forced marriage and new life. Cultural values were depicted with depth at the beginning with both Naila’s value on family, her hopes and anxieties, and the pressures and restrictions she faces. When they arrive in Pakistan, the details of the setting really immersed me, and was well-sustained throughout the entire story through Naila’s perspective. The nuances of an ownvoices writer’s understanding is really clear throughout.
Overall, Written in the Stars is a book I’d highly recommend. Read it soon! 🙂