Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Review: If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

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Review: If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
If You Could Be Mine
Sara Farizan
Genre: Contemporary, YA
Publication date: August 20th 2013
by HarperCollins Canada

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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?
-A copy was provided by HarperCollins Canada for review-

This was very different from anything I’ve read before. A very short book at only a little over 200 pages, If You Could Be Mine examines not only life in Iran, but life in Iran for a young girl in love with her best friend, Nasrin.

From a very young age, Sahar knew she wanted to many Nasrin and spend her whole life with her, they’ve been in a secret relationship for years now, and being found out could mean imprisonment – at the very least – for these two. This was my first book set in Iran and I found the culture and laws quite intimidating. Even though I’m not blind to what life is like in that country, especially for women, it was still shocking to find out the extent of it all that still exists to this day. For instance, a woman can get arrested, sent to prison to be raped and abused, all because she showed her elbow in public. This part of the story held my interest completely. I wish it had gone further in showing Iran, though; the beliefs and culture, the ways of life. I feel like the setting had so much untouched potential. Don’t get me wrong, the book does give off a decent feel of its country, it simply isn’t explored as much as it could have been – or as much as I was hoping, at least.

The main topic in this novel revolves around what it’s like to be gay in a country such as Iran, the dangers and obstacles that are encountered are appalling. As it’s against the law to have a relationship with the same sex, except if you get a sex change, sex changes are common amongst young and old. They’re even encouraged when someone finds themselves questioning their sexuality. Sahar thinks this is what she needs to do to get Nasrin to cancel her engagement. The love she has for this girl burns so intensely that it was almost unbearable at times. She was willing to throw her whole life away for a girl who doesn’t even seem to be on the same page. Not that I blame Nasrin either with laws and her family hanging over her head. She’s taking the easy road the majority would take. It’s an incredibly difficult situation; I felt sympathetic towards them both. Sahar is an especially likeable character with a sometimes sarcastic, always passionate personality. Nasrin burns with confidence and a happy, perfect life is all planned out, but we come to see her facade for what it is. A few side characters play a big part in this story as well, and become Sahar’s support group throughout. I enjoyed Ali the most, his god-like status amongst his people is kind of awe-inspiring and made me very much curious as to what he was up to. I’m a little disappointed that this part of the story was never really explained, however, other than a few assumptions made in passing. Though I understand that his story was meant to stay in the background. Maybe to lend a bit of an extravagant vibe while at it.

All in all, If You Could Be Mine is a quick read that has a surprising amount of character depth, an exceptionally unique premise, and a realistic ending that is greatly appreciated. I do feel like the story missed the oomph factor it needed to make it truly extraordinary. Even so, it’s one I predict I will not forget so easily.

3 Stars
3 Hot Espressos

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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.
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26 Responses to “Review: If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan”

  1. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    Most of the reviews for this book have been similar. People have mentioned that something was missing from it.
    I want to read the book just to know more about the oppression of women in Iran. I’m glad to hear that for the most part it’s done well, but I would probably want to know more about the culture too.
    The characters sound great though. I’ll check this one out from a library when it becomes available.
    Great review, Giselle!

  2. Bethzaida (bookittyblog)

    Love this review Giselle. I agree with you about the laws. The are extreme and I don’t think fair towards women. I saw this documentary called Love Crimes of Kabul and it was freaking scary! It’s about a women’s prison in Afghanistan. One of the girls was sent there because she was caught with a boy in her house and they were only having lunch! When she gets out of prison she won’t be able to marry and she won’t have a place to live because her family doesn’t want her anymore. So sad. Anyway, I’m glad there’s books like this out there.

  3. Mary @ BookSwarm

    This sounds like what I call a “palate cleanser” because it’s something that’s good but unlike what you usually read. Iran really is a bit of a hidden culture — I know I couldn’t tell you much about it!

  4. P.E.

    I’m curious about this book, just because I am Persian but my family moved away from Iran when I was very young and I’ve only ever visited since once. I’m curious to see the culture there and compare it to what I’ve noticed. Iran has a rich history; it’s too bad those stupid jerks in the government are wrecking the reputation globally. Anyway, I’ll be on the lookout for this one.

  5. Faith Sullivan

    I’m gravitating more and more to books that are shorter in length. It just allows me to read different authors in the same amount of time, and this seems like a great one.

  6. Candace

    I might have a copy of this and I’m actually very curious. It sounds like one that could have had more in-depth stuff, but I like the shorter books a lot. I’ll have to dig around and see if I have an ARC of it like I think I might.

  7. Tellulah Darling

    I wanted to read this book the moment I read the synopsis and I think I still will but with lowered expectations. Did you ever read the memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran? It’s one woman’s account of teaching literature at the University of Tehran after 1979, focusing mostly on a book club she held in her house in the mid 90s and the various women who attended. Fascinating read.

  8. Gina @ My Precious

    I have this book in my possession to review. I’ve just not really had a huge passion to pick it up and read it. Its not really my type of read, not because of the LBGT piece, but more because its contemp and set in Iran. Sometimes though its really good to read outside one’s comfort zone because only then can readers grow. I like how you said this one is short and appears to be a quick read. I should give it a chance. Thanks for a convincing review.

  9. Gina @ My Precious

    I have this book in my possession to review. I’ve just not really had a huge passion to pick it up and read it. Its not really my type of read, not because of the LBGT piece, but more because its contemp and set in Iran. Sometimes though its really good to read outside one’s comfort zone because only then can readers grow. I like how you said this one is short and appears to be a quick read. I should give it a chance. Thanks for a convincing review.

  10. Jen @ Pop! Goes The Reader

    Wow, the concept of this novel sounds extremely powerful and moving. I can’t imagine having to sacrifice your sense of self in order to be with the one you love. I’m really interested in picking up this novel now as it sounds like nothing I’ve ever read before!

  11. Eileen @ ***Singing and Reading in the Rain***

    This one looks really gritty, and the whole premise is super intriguing, even if it didn’t have that extra oomph. I’m glad that you thought the character development was so real, although I get why you’d want to go deeper into the country. I love the fact that If You Could Be Mine explores the culture rules of Iran 😀 😀

    Fantastic review, Giselle!

  12. Nichole @ Reading By Moonlight

    Great review 🙂
    This book looks SO fascinating. I think I’m going to have to pick it up soon. I have never heard of anything like this and yet it sounds fantastic. Thanks so much for getting the word out about this one! I’m looking forward to enjoying it. (I’ll probably enjoy it even more now that I’ve read your review because the lack of exploration into some of those side characters would have bothered me, but now that I’m expecting it I think I will like it better!)

  13. Charlotte K. Fiel

    I wish I had not read this review today. I just found out that NG approved my request for it. And now, I am quite apprehensive reading it. Great review by the way, Giselle. 😀

  14. Aman

    I like the different setting and cultural exploration in it, but overall I don’t think it’s for me. I haven’t read any LGBT books, but I’ll keep this one in mind when I do. It’s good that the book was memorable. Great review, Giselle!

  15. Siiri

    I know what you feel when you say that you’re not blind, but it’s hard to imagine what that kind of a life really is like in these countries. I’ve read so many articles and true life stories about women who’ve lived there or are still going through these things and it’s frustrating and horrifying to think about.

    Anyhow, I’m sorry this didn’t go into depth with the side characters nor describing the cultural experience in full capacity, but as you said, it’s such a short book and it seems surprisingly unique and memorable. I’m sure that this is one of those books that whether you love or hate, you won’t forget it. The story of the MC and her lover seems intense and I’m just.. so sad that people have to go through this kind of emotional and physical (operations and whatnot) torture just to love freely. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, hon!

  16. Christina @ Christina Reads YA

    “I wish it had gone further in showing Iran, though; the beliefs and culture, the ways of life. I feel like the setting had so much untouched potential. Don’t get me wrong, the book does give off a decent feel of its country, it simply isn’t explored as much as it could have been – or as much as I was hoping, at least.”
    There’s got to be a balance to the harsh laws and way of life for women. If that was the only thing, then people wouldn’t *stay* there, so I think I understand what you’re getting at. More setting could’ve helped set more firmly the good and the bad.

    “The love she has for this girl burns so intensely that it was almost unbearable at times.” As in sappy unbearable or insta-love unbearable or what you said about the other girl not really showing it as much?

    The character depth and premise do sound like a winner! Sad that it lacked that *oomph* but maybe that’ll be present in the author’s next work? 🙂 It makes me happy to see a book set in the Middle East. Especially a YA LGBTQ oriented book.

  17. Soma Rostam

    Well, Giselle
    I am from Iraq, as you know. So, Iran is out neighboring country. And we do share a few things. We don’t know if homosexuality is allowed or not because nobody has ever witnessed it. You can never see someone actually acknowledge their different sexuality. But of course, we are not that strict about showing our elbows and such. It’s free her to do whatever you want, wear a scarf around your hair or not
    But i am intrigued about this book, because it’s the first time I hear about it
    Your reader,
    Soma