Tuesday, 12 May 2015

'The ReArranged Life' by Annika Sharma - SPOILER FREE REVIEW (+ giveaway!)

First off I need to say a massive thank you to Curiosity Quills Press, for sending me an e-copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review, and for allowing me to be a part of the 'The ReArranged Life' Blog Tour! 

Nithya, a vivacious, intelligent and driven college senior has always known what she has wanted: a successful career in medicine and the love of her family. She’s even come to terms with the idea of an arranged marriage, a tradition her conservative Indian family has held up for thousands of years.  
When a night of partying puts her on a collision course with danger, Nithya’s entire life changes. 
Enter James St. Clair, the smart, challenging and heartbreakingly handsome American. As Nithya and James fall in love, she questions the future she and her parents have always planned. 
Now, Nithya has a choice to make: become a doctor and a good Indian bride, or step away from her family and centuries of culture to forge her own path. The decision she comes to takes her on a journey that transforms how she sees her future, her relationships with loved ones, and how she learns to put herself back together when even her best-laid plans fall apart. 
The synopsis for 'The ReArranged Life' grabbed me instantly, because it was so unlike any book that I'd ever read before. I'm a huge supporter of the We Need Diverse YA campaign, and I've always thought that it should definitely branch out into the New Adult genre, so it was brilliant to see a contemporary novel like this with an Indian protagonist whose entire world was so deeply rooted in traditional beliefs. 
One of the most striking aspects of this novel was how surprisingly easy it was to relate to the main character. Despite the fact that Nithya was constantly referring to Indian terms that I hadn't heard of before (Google became a great friend during my reading of this book!) I didn't feel any less connected to her, because she had such an endearing personality. Throughout her burgeoning romance with James, and the quickly developing feelings of love she was having, she still constantly worried about what her family would think, and how it would affect their reputation, meaning that she wasn't just a self-absorbed and shallow protagonist. This all made it very easy to fall in love with her, and to feel for her throughout her conflicting and nerve-wracking experience. Similarly, despite the fact that the situation was so different from any that I'd experienced myself, I still felt as though I could relate to it to a lesser extreme - the idea that the boy you're falling in love with might not be the best for you or for your family is probably one that will resonate within all of us.
It was also very easy to fall in love with James, who was written fabulously. Instead of being instantly accepting of the fact that Nithya was supposed to have an arranged marriage, he took it very hard and contemplated where their relationship was going with an extremely mature approach. It was nice to have such an honest reaction to a sensitive subject - instead of getting over it straight away it took time and a lot of discussions between the two of them to come to a mutual agreement.
I didn't know much about Indian culture or arranged marriages before I read this novel, so I'm coming away feeling enlightened and intrigued. It's definitely a topic I want to read further into, because the pictures that Annika was painting with her words were so beautiful. When describing the wedding Nithya attends towards the beginning of the novel it was very artfully worded, and even though some of the specialist language Nithya used went straight over my head, it didn't dampen my enjoyment of the novel one iota.
I'm not going to give anything away about how this all gets wrapped up towards the end of the novel, because I really want you to read it and find out for yourself, because it's a great read. If you haven't read a novel with an Indian protagonist before, why not branch out and try it now? You will not regret it, I can assure you. This is Annika's debut novel, and I cannot wait to read more - her voice is so refreshing and it's great to get some more diversity in the field of NA, especially diversity that maturely discusses and weighs up a subject as controversial as this one. I've heard a lot of opinions about arranged marriage before I read this novel, but none of them have ever been from an Indian's perspective, and I think it's something that we should all really research a little bit more before judging.

To celebrate the release of 'The ReArranged Life', and the setting for James and Nithya's first date, I'm happy to offer you the chance to win a $25 Starbucks gift card, in conjunction with Curiosity Quills! Enter the giveaway below - good luck! And if you haven't checked out 'The ReArranged Life' yet, I highly recommend that you purchase it: it's available on both Amazon UK and Amazon US!

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About the author:

Annika Sharma was born in India and moved to the United States (Pennsylvania!) when she was a baby. Annika was a daydreamer from day one, always coming up with stories and games of pretend that seemed real. She was a serious journal-writer from fifth grade to college and wrote dramatic scenes for stories often, inspired by soap operas she watched in summers off from school.
Eventually, when the time for college came around, Annika’s parents encouraged her to pursue journalism. Convinced she couldn’t make a living from writing, Annika disagreed. After five years, two degrees, two minors, working with children, being a dancer teacher, and creating a two-and-a-half page resume in college that had interests so all-over-the-place that even she couldn’t make sense of it, Annika finally decided her parents were right. Writing was where her heart was, all along.
In the month before graduate school, the idea Annika had in mind for years finally poured out in the form of the novel, The Rearranged Life. Annika began editing in earnest after she finished her Master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education, landing Stacey Donaghy of Donaghy Literary Group as an agent. Three months later, she had a book deal with Curiosity Quills.
In her spare time, Annika loves spending time with her family and friends, often indulging in the three S’s: Starbucks, shopping and superhero movies. As a chocolate lover and general all-around vegetarian foodie, Annika also adores cooking.
If you love 'The ReArranged Life' as much as I do, you should contact Annika on her Twitter to congratulate her for writing an amazing novel! I'd also like to say thank you to Curiosity Quills once again for offering me such a brilliant opportunity to read such an insightful and enlightening novel.

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