Thank you to the #kidlitexchange network for the free review copy – all opinions are my own.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Seventeen-year-old Jaya Mehta detests wealth, secrets, and privilege, though he has them all. His family is Indian, originally from Gujarat. Rasa Santos, like many in Hawaii, is of mixed ethnicity. All she has are siblings, three of them, plus a mother who controls men like a black widow spider and leaves her children whenever she wants to. Neither Jaya nor Rasa have ever known real love or close family―not until their chance meeting one sunny day on a mountain in Hau’ula.
The unlikely love that blooms between them must survive the stranglehold their respective pasts have on them. Each of their present identities has been shaped by years of extreme family struggles. By the time they cross paths, Jaya is a transgender outsider with depressive tendencies and the stunningly beautiful Rasa thinks sex is her only power until a violent pimp takes over her life. Will their love transcend and pull them forward, or will they remain stuck and separate in the chaos of their pasts?
Wow. This book was intense. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it was pretty difficult to read. It’s one of those books that really draws you in and makes you take a good hard look at what’s going on in the lives of people around you. Patel didn’t sugarcoat the struggles of her characters, which, unfortunately, are the struggles of many teens around the world. As difficult and horrible as those struggles are, I saw this story as a tribute to them and their perseverance and strength.
I have to be honest and admit that I don’t know what else to say about this book. It’s taken me days to write this much because I can’t find the words to express my thoughts. It’s an intensely emotional read that is going to make plenty of people uncomfortable, but I think that’s an important part of the reading experience. And I think everyone should read this book.
I do want to say to the author: thank you for adding your voice to the mix of teen lit. Jaya and Rasa’s stories are ones that need to be heard and you’ve done an amazing job of bringing them to life.
Highly recommend. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Book stats: Hardcover, 224 pages, Cinco Puntos Press, September 19, 2017