Fifteen-year-old Simran “Simi” Sangha comes from a long line of Indian vichole-matchmakers-with a rich history for helping parents find good matches for their grown children. When Simi accidentally sets up her cousin and a soon-to-be lawyer, her family is thrilled that she has the “gift.”
But Simi is an artist, and she doesn’t want to have anything to do with relationships, helicopter parents, and family drama. That is, until she realizes this might be just the thing to improve her and her best friend Noah’s social status. Armed with her family’s ancient guide to finding love, Simi starts a matchmaking service-via an app, of course.
But when she helps connect a wallflower of a girl with the star of the boys’ soccer team, she turns the high school hierarchy topsy-turvy, soon making herself public enemy number one.
When I learned about A Match Made in Mehendi earlier this year, learned that it was about an Indian-American teen and that the story would be about matchmaking and love? I knew I had to read it. And after reading a string of fantastic diverse young-adult contemporaries, I’ve unofficially dubbed this year as ‘The Year of Diverse YA Contemporaries’ – and A Match Made in Mehendi is perhaps the hidden gem in YA contemporary.
A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai follows fifteen-year old Simi, who comes from a long line and rich family history of Indian matchmakers. When she accidentally sets up her cousin with a future-lawyer, her ecstatic mother and aunt believe that she has ‘the gift’. To make a mark in her second year at high school, she utilises her family’s guide to love and starts a matchmaking service – as an app.
If you think this book is delightful, you are absolutely right! I really enjoyed reading this, and think it’s the perfect cosy read – the kind of book you read where you are most comfortable and read to feel warm and fuzzy. But in case you need more convincing, here are five reasons why you should read this book!
1. It follows the sweetest and earnest Indian-American protagonist
Listen: half of what makes this book so sweet and spectacular is Simi, the main character of A Match Made in Mehendi. She’s fifteen years old (on that note: she’s a little younger than most YA protagonists, and I really thought Bajpai nailed her perspective as a younger teen!), she is an artist, has an incredible kind soul, fights what she thinks is right, and is a little flawed too. In the story, Simi makes mistakes and learns from them, and I just really love stories that allow young teens to be vulnerable, make mistakes, and grow.
2. Explores the art of matchmaking
A Match Made in Mehendi shows that matchmaking isn’t just bringing people together and hoping that things work out. Rather, the story shows how matchmaking is a delicate and thoughtful process that is sensitive to all parties involved as well as their wants and needs. Simi comes from a long family line of matchmakers, and I loved how the nuances of the art are explored from both her mother’s side and Simi herself. Furthermore, A Match Made in Mehendi also highlights how matchmaking is a service that is rich and full of cultural and family history – and that it is something to be treasured and respected.
3. Delves into high school drama and politics
Think Mean Girls Lite: A Match Made in Mehendi does also explore the hierarchies and power dynamics within student bodies. A Match Made in Mehendi may not be as catty or backstabby as Mean Girls, but it does explore how the matchmaking app that Simi and Noah, her best friend, launches impacts their ‘status’ in school. Furthermore, the story explores how the matchmaking service turns the high school hierarchy around, revealing how bitter endings to romantic relationships can create palpable ripple effects among the community, how students with more social capital can get away with things, and how these dramas can take up a significant part of someone’s life.
4. It actually has a fantastic love triangle
I know a lot of people don’t enjoy love triangles (my personal opinion is more neutral; it depends on whether it’s done well), but I can confidently say that the love triangle in A Match Made in Mehendi was brilliantly done. Not only does the love triangle provide the right amount of tension and interest to push the story forward, I really loved how the story explored Simi’s emotional and conflicting responses to the feelings she develops organically for both people – and I think her feelings are valid and so authentic.
There is also no cheating involved, and the way she ‘decides’ who she chooses develops in such an unexpected but welcome way – one that provides a little bit of discourse and one that demonstrate Simi’s incredible strengths of being true to herself. More importantly, the person that she chooses in the end is actually wonderful, and the feelings that blossom between them are soft and warm and lovely.
5. The story also tackles bullying
While I do think that A Match Made in Mehendi is generally a light-hearted book, it also tackles bullying. The bullying isn’t incredibly severe and no physical harm is involved, but it does sensitively show the impact that bullying can have on someone’s life and the emotional toll it can have on victims. However, the bully and their actions do face consequences (how this happens, is something I’ll leave for you to read and discover yourself), and agency is given to the victims of the bullying by the end of the book.
Important note though: As a consequence of the bully’s actions, a gay character is outed. Although I’m a little tired of gay characters being outed to show how terrible a character is, I also do think that the story does address, without ambiguity, the wrongness of the bully’s actions, the impact this has on the character whilst also retaining the gay character’s agency within the story. Additionally, the gay character has a happy ending without brushing what happened under the rug.
MY CONCLUSION: RECOMMENDED
Honestly, A Match Made in Mehendi is a pretty lovely book and such a wholesome read. I’m loving that this book is unapologetically desi, and that Simi is comfortable with her desi identity and that it is such a big part of who she is and, in extension, an integral part of the storytelling as well. Perfect if you want something light, fun, and heart-warming.
Is this book for you?
Premise in a sentence: A desi teen launches a matchmaking app at school with her best friend based on her family’s matchmaking guide, subsequently turning the high school hierarchy upside down.
Perfect for: Readers who love YA feel-good contemporaries; readers who are looking for fantastic desi heroines and stories; readers who want something a little more light-hearted.
Think twice if: You’re not a fan of contemporary stories, or the below content warnings turn you off from enjoying the story.
Genre: young adult contemporary romance
Trigger/content warning: targeted bullying, microaggresions (challenged), gay character is outed (challenged and addressed)