Susan is the new girl―she’s sharp and driven, and strives to meet her parents’ expectations of excellence. Malcolm is the bad boy―he started raising hell at age fifteen, after his mom died of cancer, and has had a reputation ever since.
Susan’s parents are on the verge of divorce. Malcolm’s dad is a known adulterer.
Susan hasn’t told anyone, but she wants to be an artist. Malcolm doesn’t know what he wants―until he meets her.
Love is messy and families are messier, but in spite of their burdens, Susan and Malcolm fall for each other. The ways they drift apart and come back together are testaments to family, culture, and being true to who you are.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes, Underage drinking, Cigarettes, Domestic abuse
Booklist (February 15, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 12))
Grades 9-12. In Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Susan attended an all-girls school where she excelled in her studies, striving to meet the high expectations of her parents. Now, however, Susan and her mother have moved to Mississauga, Ontario, for Susan’s final year of high school. It’s all joltingly strange, from the absence of Susan’s father, who keeps pushing back his arrival date, to the presence of boys everywhere. One boy, Malcolm, manages to befriend Susan despite her resistance. Malcolm has his own demons, rendering him defiant and academically disengaged. The two make wary progress towards a relationship, with each teen narrating alternating chapters. Both of them are of East Indian heritage, as are many of their friends, and the portrayal of transplanted culture heightens the appeal of their story. Their struggles with expectations and traditions born in a faraway land will ring true for any reader with immigrant parents. At the same time, both Susan and Malcolm bear witness to their own parents’ marital failings, in contrast with the stereotype of traditional families. A good recommendation for readers interested in romance.
Kirkus Reviews (November 15, 2018)
Opposites attract in this teen romance shaped by immigration, grief, and loss. Susan Thomas and Malcolm Vakil could not be more different. Susan is a shy, bookish Malayali Christian perfectionist who grew up in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, before moving to Canada for her senior year of high school. Malcolm is a hell-raising Parsi Canadian still reeling from his mother’s death, his father’s abuse, and his ex-girlfriend’s betrayal. Despite their better judgment, the two teens strike up a tentative romance, their feelings quickly deepening from infatuation to true love. But as Susan grapples with her parents’ impending divorce and her desire to go to art school and Malcolm confronts his conflicted feelings for his ex-girlfriend and his damaged relationship with his father and stepmother, the two must learn to overcome their insecurities to support each other. The story is told from each of their points of view, and each perspective is nuanced and distinct. Susan’s character arc is convincing and compelling, defying her initial characterization as a clichéd, overprotected Indian girl. But while the action is fast-paced and the characters refreshingly diverse, Bhathena’s (A Girl Like That, 2018) clumsy prose and stilted dialogue limit the narrative’s emotional impact. The Parsi elements of the book ring true, particularly refreshing considering how little Parsis are represented in Western YA literature. In contrast, the book is riddled with cultural inaccuracies and stereotypes about southern Indians that unfortunately render those characters less believable. A diverse, entertaining love story that falls just short of extraordinary. (Romance. 14-18)
About the Author
Tanaz Bhathena was born in Mumbai and raised in Riyadh, Jeddah and Toronto. Her short stories have appeared in various journals, including Blackbird, Witness and Room Magazine. A Girl Like That is her first novel.
Her website is tanazbhathena.com
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