Published: August 20th, 2013 by Algonquin Young Readers | Series: N/A | Length: 247 pages | Genre: YA, romance, LGBTQIAP issues | Source: Borrowed from library
Summary from Goodreads:
In this stunning debut, a young Iranian American writer pulls back the curtain on one of the most hidden corners of a much-talked-about culture.
Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.
So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin’s parents announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.
Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution. In Iran, homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman’s body is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. As a man, Sahar could be the one to marry Nasrin. Sahar will never be able to love the one she wants, in the body she wants to be loved in, without risking her life. Is saving her love worth sacrificing her true self?
Quite frankly, I’ve been struggling to write a review for this. I was really looking forward to this book and while I enjoyed it, it wasn’t nearly as good as I was hoping it would be.
One of the biggest problems I had was that I did not like the love interest at all and so I actually didn’t really want them to find a way to be together. Nasrin was just so self-centered, it was almost comical. It was only when things were going to negatively affect her personally that she actually cared. For example, she doesn’t care that Sahar’s heart is broken when Nasrin’s parents arrange for her to be married until Sahar tells her that she won’t continue to secretly be with her once she’s married. Only then is her engagement seen as a problem to her. I try not to judge female characters too harshly for being selfish (because I know this is a common criticism rooted in sexism) but, seriously, I could not get past it. She was just so unbelievably self-centered.
What I loved most about this book was its setting. I’ve never read a book set in Iran and have only read one other book set in the Middle East that I can remember (The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini). It was great to see Iranian culture and honestly, it was just great to read a book that wasn’t set in the US! I liked that a lot of the cultural stuff that had to be explained for an American audience was really nicely woven into the story rather than being told with an info-dump. Farizan definitely deserves credit for that, in my opinion, because it really was done very well.
The other thing that had me upset with this book was the way in which trans issues were dealt with. Now, I should’ve seen this was going to be a problem just from reading the synopsis but I somehow didn’t. I don’t know how much of this to be truly critical of because it seems to me as if a lot of it was done in an effort to show how trans issues are dealt with/thought of in Iran and a lot of the less-than-stellar comments are addressed. But there were still some things that made me cringe a little bit. I don’t want to go too much into it because I could be here all day. One thing that bothered me was how nearly every time Sahar saw this one woman (who she knew was trans), she always commented on how “manly” her hands were and how anyone who didn’t know she was trans could just look at her hands and they’d be able to tell. Yuck. Also, the whole premise underlying this book – that if you’re not accepted for being a lesbian, just become a trans guy instead and your problems will be solved! – seemed kind of gross to me. But that’s one of those things that I’m not sure whether or not to criticize because, at least based on what I’ve read in the book, it seems like Iranian culture and their government is more accepting of people being trans than gay, so that may be a more valid response in that culture compared to in the US. I hope that makes sense. (If I have any trans or Iranian readers that would like to comment on this, please don’t be shy!)
If You Could Be Mine was a good book and I really liked taking a break from books set in the US. If you’re looking for a good diverse read, this may be a good choice for you but be aware that there are some potential problems with trans representation.