Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

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Rating: ★★★★★ | 5 stars

(Although I believe that this book is written in the stars. Thus it deserves all the stars in the entire universe).

Release Date: March 24th, 2015

Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, Diverse Fiction, Own Voices, We Need Diverse Books

Page Count: 277 pages

Dates Read: July 21st – 24th, 2017

This heart-wrenching novel explores what it is like to be thrust into an unwanted marriage. Has Naila’s fate been written in the stars? Or can she still make her own destiny?

Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up—but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating—even friendship with a boy—is forbidden. When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed—her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late.

– Goodreads 2017

Book #1 for Book-tube-a-Thon | Challenge #4 – Read a Book with a character who is very different from you. Also Challenge #1 – Read a book with a person on the cover. I’ve read 2/7 books already and it’s only day two.

“EVERYTHING HURTS AND I’M DYING. What is emotion? How am I suppose to sleep? What is sleep? What is life? – Tova 2:30 am following the end of WitS

I am not okay. This is not okay. How is this okay?

Image result for Rasha hatun gifs

I was told this book would be emotional. I knew I’d be getting emotionally attached and that shit was about to get real but I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

EMOTIONS. I simply cannot handle it.

TK TK gifs
The thing is – you don’t. Not until you read this book.

I’m sobbing. I am so triggered.

Trigger warnings: Rape, Abuse & Teen* Pregnancy

*she’s seventeen? maybe eighteen

This book is incredible. It had me smiling like an idiot, cursing, hitting my bed at 1:00 am and using every ounce of my self-control to stop me from throwing the book across the room because of how emotionally gut-wrenching it was.

If you like this, I think you would like Honor by Elif Shafak and The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson.

This book is basically about a young woman who is forced into an arranged marriage against her will. While this book is set in Pakistan, and Naila’s family is Muslim, forced arranged marriages can happen anywhere from The United States to Timbuktu to someone of any race, or religion. Not all arranged marriages are this horrid, for example, this novel is partially own voices, not only because Aisha Saeed is Pakistani-American like Naila, but she was set in an arranged marriage. Fortunately, it was not against her will, and her marriage has thrived because she and her husband really love each other.

I think this may be my favorite read of 2017 to date.

I really don’t want to spoil y’all so I’m just going to put a spoiler warning here because I need to talk about some things.

<> SPOILER ALERT <>

“My mother always says when you fight destiny, destiny fights back. Some things, they’re just written in the stars. You can try but you can never escape what’s meant to be.”

the irony

The characters. Just the characters. Slay my heart.

Naila is one strong woman who I admire a lot. She’s gone through a lot of shit by the end of this book. Shit that no one should have to endure, and I’m happy she got her happy ending. It could have been really cheesy, but her circumstance deserved some reprieve. Naila is ripped away from her boyfriend, school, and pretty much every important aspect of her life on a  “culture exposure” trip to Pakistan which really turns out to be a plot to marry her off to escape the shame of her secretly having a boyfriend.  She is forced to miss her high school graduation and her college orientation. Her entire summer is spent meeting a number of boys, unaware of her parent’s plot. Once she realizes her parent’s true intention she is horrified because she doesn’t want to be married. All she wants is to go to college (which she has a medical school scholarship going for her) and be with Saif with her parent’s approval. Despite her feelings, her parents proceed. She tries to escape but is caught and locked in her room, and almost force feed, because she refuses to eat. They then decide that they can’t wait any longer so they drug her for the wedding making an escape and any objections she might impossible. Once she is married she has to go live with her husband’s family who are less than great. She has to endure disapproval and not being good enough from her sister-in-law and mother-in-law, and she is raped by her husband because he has to fulfill “his duty”. Well, because everything is turning out for the worse, Naila discovers she’s pregnant. Fortunately, Saif comes to Pakistan to try to help her out of her situation, but Saba (Amin’s sister) finds out and accuses her of having an affair, while pregnant with Saif. Amin is angry and allows his mother to kick Naila out. She ends up losing her baby, but Saif is with her, and his family doesn’t absolutely everything to help her adjust to life after her ordeal. As a character, she was very likable, and you were rooting for her, my heart ached for her, and I was on the verge of a full mental breakdown, crying, screaming and all because of the injustice she was being put through. Safe to say, she is a new favorite cinnamon roll, who I will protect at all costs.

Naila is one of my new favorite fictional females. She is wonderful. She makes me happy.

 

Saif is incredible. Every girl deserves a guy like Saif. Someone who would just drop everything to come to a foreign country to get you out of a horrible situation. During the scenes in the first couple of chapters between Saif and Naila, I was smiling like an idiot. They had such chemistry, and nothing made me happier than their happiness. Until her parents had to come and ruin everything. He had already rented a tux, but he goes to prom in tradition Pakistani attire to match her, which is SO CUTE. He really loves her, and not even the barriers of what happens to Naila stop him. I’m so glad that in the end, they get married and that she has him to help her through her recovery process. The one thing I didn’t get is why her parents were so against her dating Saif. Sure, they want to choose her husband, but of all the guys she could have fallen for, she falls for an attractive, intelligent Pakistani-American guy. What more could they want? He obviously has money. Like, you live in Florida, at least she didn’t go for some douchebag white guy. Think about how lucky you got. Also, the whole shame thing was excessive. Sure, “dishonor on you, dishonor on your cow” but come on, they were seriously overreacting. Is upholding tradition really more important than your daughter’s health, happiness, and safety? I will never get over the fact that he does all of this because he loves her beyond reason, and that he is willing to love her, nightmares and all. My heart.

Feiza deserves better. Not to say that I think Usman is a terrible husband (since we have zero proof of his character) he’s mentioned like three times, but more for the fact that she has to live with Nasim. It’s hard raising a child without your spouse there but also to have a crappy mother-in-law. Ugh. I really liked the friendship and connection between Naila and her sister-in-law. I’m glad she had at least one member of her new family that was kind, and tried to help, and was at the very least supportive. Cause, Nasim doesn’t do shit when Zaina is sick and almost dies.

Life is unfair and that sucks.

Zaina is precious. She is Naila’s niece ( by marriage) and she is Usman and Feiza’s daughter. She’s one maybe two and she’s the one completely pure thing in this entire book. She has no flaws (which might not be realistic but she’s such a minor character it doesn’t matter.) The one con of leaving Pakistan, she may never get to see her former niece ever again.

Selma is the world’s best cousin, hands down. The one benefit of coming to Pakistan would have to be meeting Selma. When she gives Naila all of the money, she’s saved up for years to help her escape (even though I knew that plan would last all of five minutes before it goes to shit too) it was well meant and it shows how much Selma actually cares about Naila. Sure, it would be hard to see your cousin getting so much attention, but that doesn’t stop Selma from being the harbinger of bad news, and the whistleblower. Such a blessing.

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Saif’s parents are blessed angels. We know almost nothing about them, we know more about Usman than we do them. They are the best YA parents I have ever read about and possibly some of the greatest people who have ever existed fictionally. They help Naila with everything, from dealing with the aftermath of her miscarriage to acting as her support people in court during the divorce process, they help deal with the embassy process. They do absolutely everything in their power to help her, they show her so much love and kindness, and all because of how much Saif cares about her. As Saif says “my parents are your parents now.” They care more about her than her own parents did. I am so grateful that she had them by her side. Everyone deserves to have someone who cares about them that much, everyone deserves Saif’s parents. I don’t know shit about them, but I love them so much.

*random citizen as in Saif’s parents.

Imran was chill. While the story didn’t really focus much on the connection between Naila and her brother, it’s evident. He was really sorry for low-key busting her for being at Prom. And while he isn’t aware of the terrible ass situation in Pakistan (at least we never know) it’s not like he’s involved. I highly doubt that he wants Naila to be put in a terrible decision. But then again, he was kind of clueless and their parents were more inclined to him, maybe because of his gender.

That is sad.

 

Abu & Ami really need to access their parenting skills, like now. From page one her parents frustrated me. I have no problems with the fact that they like to keep their traditions, there are reasons that traditions become a tradition. But when Naila breaks one rule, how they freak out and say “everything is ruined. I can never show my face in public again because of you.” is when things start to turn for the worse. Arranged Marriages are a fine tradition, but they have to be consensual and not abusive. The fact that her parents pushed so hard for something that Naila was so obviously not for is what is problematic about the situation. Also, that even after the drugged her so she couldn’t resist them marry her to some almost stranger they still thought they done the right thing. They have no qualms. They do not second guess any action. I don’t believe that they are trying to hurt Naila, but they clueless AF. How they treat Naila is NOT OKAY. That is child abuse. Worst parents ever, and I was glad that Naila didn’t instantly forgive them because she shouldn’t. I don’t know if she does because the epilogue just says two years after she escapes, she and Saif are hitched she goes to take to her mother.  It breaks my heart that her parents are supposed to love her beyond reason and who would do anything in their power to see her happy, safe and healthy, would allow this kind thing makes me want to curl up into a tiny ball and weep my heart dry.

Naila deserves the world compared to you. And you call yourself her parents.

Nasim is a terrible person. Redeemable qualities? What a concept. Nope, this woman doesn’t have him. Think about the most terrible person you know, or have read about, and double that. She obviously cares about Amin, but her abuse of Naila is not okay either. If she had a soul, you think she would realize that Naila didn’t consent, and would agree to terminate the marriage. How that woman could live with herself after she just kicks her pregnant daughter in law, who had been abused onto the streets is something I will never understand.

What did Naila do to you?

Amin is interesting. I’m really not sure how I actually feel. At least he’s sort of nice, he tries, but he’s really terrible at actually being nice. I wanted to like him, but the whole rape and his excuses just don’t cut it for me. Even though he apologized, raping someone is not okay. He’s really clueless, considering that he thinks she’s bummed because they don’t have a really nice honeymoon. Who cares about a honeymoon! It warmed my heart a little when he told her why he liked her because she was different because she smiled at him when he first meets her. I assume he’s probably attractive, and he tries to be kind and make up for his shitty behavior with a vacation proposal and never tries to “rape”/have sex with her after that one time. But it’s not enough, and I doubt there would be any easy solution to make her fully forgive his behavior, which is how it should be. Honestly, he reminds me of the song Blurred Lines because it’s catchy, but you hate what it stands for. But him leaving her to the dogs (Nasim) was just a shitty thing to do.

“May I lift your veil?” 

Is he asking for consent? What a concept. Yet, he doesn’t wait for her reply. Wow. That is definitely how consent goes? I know that wasn’t before the rape scene but, seriously dude.

“I’m sorry Naila.”

WHY DO PEOPLE THINK SORRY IS GONNA CUT IT FOR AN APOLOGY AFTER YOU RAPE THEM? UGH.

Saba is one of my least favorite fictional people of all time. Hate is a strong word, but that is the only way I can describe my feelings for Saba. She wasn’t likable, she spent most of her time moping, and took it out on Naila, who didn’t need extra shit put on her. What really pissed me off was her manipulation of Amin, by telling him that Naila was pregnant before Naila has a chance, which makes Amin allow Nasim to kick Naila out. I mean that was kind of a bad idea on Naila’s part to give someone like Saba that kind of informative bate which makes for great blackmail, but Naila’s oversight is understandable. But it was firmly established that Saba was not on Naila’s side at all. Oh, whale.

Humanity disappoints me.

Chacha needs help. Her uncle wasn’t the greatest person. The fact that none of her family actively protested this, hurts a little. But, it’s cruel to lock someone up and threaten them. That’s abusive and illegal.

If I were in Naila’s situation I would never be able to forgive my parents. Their actions are unacceptable. And I love how this book does not excuse the terrible nature of their actions. Actions have consequences that are unavoidable.

[POLICE SIREN] EVERYTHING HAS GONE TO SHIT!
Exhibit A: Tova reading this book smiling like an idiot, and on the verge of squealing (because of cuteness) then came these six words: “And then I see. My parents.”
She starts to say the f word and then slams the book closed, stands up blinks tears and walks away. She marches up the stairs to her room, where she silently screams.

  I  just couldn’t. I mean, of course, I knew they were gonna get busted.

 Then we have this winner winner chicken dinner: “We can to one conclusion. This is our fault.”

Really?

 

*Chokes on coffee and starts laughing* WTF? You blame yourself but you still blame her in every way possible. At least Saif is also Pakistani-American.

WHAT IS WITH THESE PEOPLE?
We’re going a month, no were gonna add a week. a month. the entire summer. You know what? Why don’t we just move her forever and never leave? Logic. That is pure unadulterated logic.

You are killing me.

 

When Feiza first suggested that Naila might be pregnant, I did not want to believe it.

And it did.

I was promised emotion – but this is relentless, yet incredible.

 

Thank you, Aisha Saeed, from the bottom of my heart, for this incredible and wild ride. I am so happy I read this, thank you for destroying me. It means a lot to me. I now aspire to make others feel as you have with your story. This is what a book should aspire to be.

Petyr Baeish Books  © 2017 by Tova Portmann-Bown

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