When I picked up this book, I expected to find the usual YA love story suspects:
Parents who didn’t like the boyfriend, a sarcastic side kick, and a swoon-worthy-lovey-dovey-happily-ever-after-ending. What I found in Aisha Saeed’s Written in the Stars was something else entirely.
Never has a book so quickly revealed my insane privilege as a white, American girl. There are many rights I take for granted in my life, but one of them I rarely think about is the right to choose my own husband. I have never had to worry about my parents forcing me into a marriage I didn’t want (thank you VERY much for that, Mom and Papah). Aisha Saeed sends readers head-first into the harsh reality by which thousands of young girls are trapped.
Naila’s parents moved from Pakistan to start a new life – a better life – for their family. They raised her with the same values and traditions they knew in their home country while always encouraging her to purse the “American Dream.” When they discover Naila (who is not supposed to date anyone until her parents have chosen her future husband), has an American boyfriend, they aren’t just disappointed, they’re enraged.
Naila has shamed her family. Despite this, she hopes that the sudden news of a trip “home” to Pakistan means they’ve forgiven her, but when her parents become secretive, her passport goes missing, and an endless number of young men start visiting the family home, she starts to wonder just how far her parents will go to “bring the old Naila back.”
I lost count of the number of times I screeched, “Uckk!” as I listened to the narrator. I became used to the twisted knots that lived in my stomach as I prayed Naila would escape her family.
What’s incredible about this book is that it isn’t just a love story, it’s a story about finding freedom and having hope that there will come a day when the pain we feel now is just a memory.
Please, please, please, read this book. Naila’s character may be fictional, but the fear, confinement, and oppression Naila faced are all too real. Girls as young as 8 years old are forced into marriage in the world we live in. We can choose to ignore this truth, or we can listen to stories like Naila’s and search for ways to help and protect girls like her. Whether you are 16 or 60, this is a story that has the power to inspire and empower you to act.
If you enjoyed Love, Hate, and Other Filters, Frankly in Love, and Amal Unbound, you have GOT to read this book!
Check out the FANTASTIC (and newly released) audiobook on Libro.fm
Violence: When Naila realizes her parents’ plans, she tries to escape. When she does, readers see the true nature of her uncle, a man feared by the rest of the village. There are a handful of times in this story when Naila is beaten by members of her family. At one point, she is even drugged by her family to prevent her from running away.
Sexual Assault: There is one scene in which a character is forced into sex. The rape results in a pregnancy that is lost in a miscarriage. Regardless of whether you have personally experienced this, what happens in the scene is imperative for all readers to discuss.
Recommended Age: 14+ due to domestic violence and sexual assault.
Questions to consider
***Before reading this book, what did you know about arranged marriages? How common do you think Naila’s story is? Can you imagine this happening in the United States? Why / why not?
***It’s easy to feel like Naila didn’t speak up or act as fast as we think she should have – What would YOU have done in her situation?
***Should Naila forgive her parents?
***How do you see women/children manipulated in our world?