books and reading · reviews

Book Review: If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

Sahar has been in love with her best friend Nasrin since they were small children.  For years, they’ve kept their relationship secret, because it is against the law to be homosexual in Iran–they could be beaten, imprisoned, or even killed for their relationship.  Now Nasrin is to be married to a man, and Sahar is desperate to save their relationship. She finds what she thinks is a loophole: the government will allow a man trapped in a woman’s body to have sexual reassignment surgery.  But this will mean Sahar cannot love the person she wants in the body she wants to be in.

Sara Farizan’s novel about two girls in love in Iran has so much potential but falls short of the mark.  While the novel offers a fresh perspective from an interesting new voice, it doesn’t succeed on any of its fronts, leaving the result feeling very half-baked.  Because of the unique premise of the novel, some readers might be willing to overlook the novel’s failings, but this reader wasn’t.

The main problem is that there’s a fundamental disconnect between what Sahar feels for Nasrin and what the readers see and experience alongside her.  The relationship feels entirely one-sided and unrequited, almost.  Nasrin’s motivations are never clear, and her true feelings for Sahar are even less obvious.  The fact that she’s a selfish, spoiled princess doesn’t help her situation, either.

Because the novel is so slim, very little time is spent building the backstory to the girls’ relationship.  Readers are dropped right into the girls relationship as things begin to unravel, and they have no time to get invested in what is happening.  Combine this with the fact that Sahar’s feelings for Nasrin never completely gel with what the readers are seeing, and the result is an underbaked romance.

Despite this, the novel offers a rare perspective on what it is to be GLBT in Iran, and it’s likely to attract a readership.  A few more revisions of this novel, and it’s likely to have been something really great.

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan. Algonquin Young Readers: 2013. Library copy read for the 2013 Cybils.

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