*I received a copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*
Title: 96 Words for Love
Author: Rachel Roy and Ava Dash
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson
Publication Date: January 15, 2019
A modern retelling of a classic Indian legend, 96 Words for Love is a coming-of-age story.
Ever since her acceptance to UCLA, 17-year-old Raya Liston has been quietly freaking out. She feels simultaneously lost and trapped by a future already mapped out for her.
Then her beloved grandmother dies, and Raya jumps at the chance to spend her last free summer at the ashram in India where her grandmother met and fell in love with her grandfather. Raya hopes to find her center and her true path. But she didn’t expect to fall in love… with a country of beautiful contradictions, her fiercely loyal cousin, a local girl with a passion for reading, and a boy who teaches her that in Sanskrit, there are 96 different ways to say the word “love.”
A modern retelling of the classic Indian legend of Shakuntala and Dushyanta.
Review: This book was honestly just okay for me. I mean I liked that it was about self-discovery and first love, but it lacked the depth that I wanted. The story starts with Raya who is having a bit of an existential crisis when she second guesses what she wants to do with the rest of her life after being accepted to UCLA. She’s also dealing with the grief of losing her grandmother, whose dying wish was for her and her cousin to visit her favourite ashram in India.
When Raya goes to the ashram though, she becomes more confused about what she wants. It also doesn’t help that she keeps getting distracted from what she came to find by a guy. She falls for Kiran hard and fast, and while the initial chemistry was good, the relationship got too intense for such a short period of time. The story tried to go for emotional depth, but since the characters weren’t fully developed it was difficult to feel invested in them. I also felt bad for Anandi (Raya’s cousin) who fell so far into the background that she was practically nonexistent. This started off as a story about two cousins on an adventure and somehow that part of it was completely overlooked.
Another thing I found problematic was the pacing and plot. The majority of the plot kind of gets stuck in this repetitive loop where Raya repeats her daily routine over and over. There wasn’t much development while this was happening, either. Luckily the writing style is easy to read but I needed the plot to progress. A lot happened in the last quarter of the book and suddenly there was too much happening.
Some things I did enjoy were the parallelism with the Indian legend and how much Raya did end up finding herself. There were also some entertaining secondary characters as well, which was a nice balance considering the overwhelming relationship between Raya and Kiran.
If you’re looking for a quick contemporary about first love and self-discovery, then you should check this book out.