By Anya Shukla
There’s a movie called “Indian Sweets and Spices” that’s been getting a fair amount of buzz lately. I personally don’t love the film—the plot sometimes comes out of left field, and the dialogue feels a little stilted.
This book is like that movie, but twenty times worse.
Review: After her parents disregard her wishes and attempt to set her up with an Indian boy, Jay Shah, Liya Thakkar rebels in Sajni Patel's "The Trouble With Hating You." Yet even after Liya bails on their first date, she keeps bumping into Jay: at work, where he’s the new lawyer helping her company stay afloat; and at her temple, where her “promiscuity” has made her a social pariah in her conservative Indian community. Despite the two being enemies at first, they soon find themselves falling for one another.
While this book attempts to deal with heavy topics of abuse and grief, nothing about this book feels realistic: not the characters, nor the plot, nor the representation. Plus, for a supposedly “feminist” book, there’s a lot of anti-feminist behavior. My Rating: 0/5.
What I Loved: So… I was going to say the representation. But then I read this Goodreads review that said actually, even the representation sucked.
I could definitely see how tensions between family and individual identity could arise in a conservative community, as well as how such a community could side with abusive men in power or shame women like Liya for having premarital sex. However, it doesn’t seem like these topics—along with Hinduism in general—were portrayed or addressed accurately in this book. (The Goodreads review says it better than I can, so check that out for more details.)
What I Didn’t Love: A lot. A LOT.
First: this may be ENTIRELY personal preference, but… the word choice. I have never seen words like “vexed” used in dialogue (repeatedly) or phrases like “my back gladly bent to her command” (pg. 23). 80% of the writing is fine, but then I get hit with one of these weird descriptors (“unstressed bladder” (pg. 70), anyone?) and break out of my reading rhythm. There’s something oddly formal about the way these characters talk and describe their actions, and I did NOT enjoy it.
Second: the lack of exposition. A large part of Liya’s character arc involves her father and his emotional/verbal abuse. However, Patel often describes the father’s actions secondhand rather than showing us his negative side through flashbacks or a prologue. Even though I know intellectually that her father’s abuse has negatively impacted Liya, Patel’s storytelling style prevented me from fully empathizing with the main character and her struggles.
Third: Jay. The first time he meets Liya at work, he’s presenting at a meeting, and she enters ten minutes late. (It’s her first day in this role, BTW, and she got held up because people kept congratulating her and she didn’t want to be rude. So, valid.) He verbally dresses her down in front of her BOSS, telling her that “if you’re going to be late, you might as well not come” (pg. 72), and berates her because she doesn’t have specific numbers on her department deficit. (It’s her first. Hour. In. This. Position. Which he KNOWS.) All because she bailed on one surprise dinner with his family and got mad after he held up her dance practice for her best friend’s wedding. And of course, he never apologizes for this incident.
All that to say, for a book that tries to attack misogynism… “The Trouble With Hating You” puts up with a lot when it comes to Jay. Whenever he asks Liya out and she says no, he proceeds to try and convince her otherwise. Multiple times. The stereotype of “women say one thing but really mean another” is incredibly harmful and problematic, and I hate that he perpetuates it. If she says no, respect that. Not to mention he keeps silent when a group of his friends slut-shame Liya.
There are WAY more incidents, but I won't bore you with the details. Overall, an awful guy and an awful romantic interest.
A Quote I Would Like On Goodreads: I genuinely cannot find one.
Up next: “Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America" by John McWhorter.