If seventeen-year-old Kareena Thakkar is going to alienate herself from the entire Indian community, she might as well do it gloriously. She’s landed the chance of a lifetime, an invitation to the US Muay Thai Open, which could lead to a spot on the first-ever Olympic team. If only her sport wasn’t seen as something too rough for girls, something she’s afraid to share with anyone outside of her family. Despite pleasing her parents, excelling at school, and making plans to get her family out of debt, Kareena’s never felt quite Indian enough, and her training is only making it worse.
Which is inconvenient, since she’s starting to fall for Amit Patel, who just might be the world’s most perfect Indian. Admitting her feelings for Amit will cost Kareena more than just her pride–she’ll have to face his parents’ disapproval, battle her own insecurities, and remain focused for the big fight. Kareena’s bid for the Olympics could very well make history–if she has the courage to go for it.
Quick note: I received a copy of this ARC from NetGalley but it didn’t affect my review in any way, shape, or form.
The book centers around the protagonist Kareena Thakkar, an Indian-American high school student who lives and breathes Muay Thai, a type of martial art that’s kind of similar to boxing. While juggling a large extracurricular commitment, she’s also still got school – and in her computer science class, the dude that’s most likely to be valedictorian is slacking and falling asleep in class. As a result, she’s forced to tutor the genius-somehow-turned-academic-failure Amit Shah.
Kareena and Amit grow closer, which is great for her since her close friends Saanvi and Rayna ditched her last year, leaving her with one friend.
On top of it all, her dad is sick, paying the bills is becoming harder and harder for her mom, and she’s eligible to compete in a national tournament for Muay Thai – which of course, costs money which is a problem.
I personally think this book does a great job with the romance aspects, avoiding the typical stereotypical brown-girl-falls-for-white-boy-and-rejects-her-culture. Amit is a great love interest and I think he really represents us as the kind-of-cool AP gang. Yeah, he’s smart but he has a personality outside of his academic excellence.
And sure, Kareena has been isolated from her local Hindu community for years, but for good reason. They treated her mother like crap and who wants to go back to that? Saanvi is the perfect example of that one girl that will likely grow up to be a typical gossipy auntie. A budding mini-auntie. I just know there’s some asshole out there that’s going to criticize that the religious character is villainized as usual in South Asian novels, and I have one thing to say for that: pay for the therapy me and all the other kids in my town need for all the religious/cultural trauma we’ve endured at the hands of our “community”.
I like that the book didn’t conclude with Kareena simply going back to her old friends. Sometimes, you end your friendship with someone because it really didn’t work out, and you don’t need to go back to that. Kareena finds herself a great new friend circle and support group, and I respect that she doesn’t try to go back to people that were awful to her.
Overall, great novel. 5/5.