Title: Written In The Stars
Author: Aisha Saeed
Published: May 3rd 2016
Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up—but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating—even friendship with a boy—is forbidden. When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed—her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late.
Trigger warning for rape and abuse.
“Naila’s story might be fictional, but the reality of forced marriages is unfortunately true for many in America and around the world.”
Given its subject matter, Written In The Stars is not an easy read. But, whilst I commend the author for tackling such a difficult topic and raising awareness about this harsh reality for so many young girls, I did have some major issues with the pacing of this book.
However, I’ll start with the positives. I thought this book clearly demonstrated the fine line between an arranged marriage and a forced marriage, and therefore it’s no surprise that people who aren’t familiar with cultures where arranged marriages are common are often mis-led to think these marriages are forced. Put simply, the difference between the two is one of consent and, through Naila’s story, Aisha Saeed refuses to sugar-coat the shocking truths of the latter. I also really enjoyed the portrayal of culture, getting to learn about Pakistan through the family’s trip to their homeland, despite the dire circumstances.
That being said, the pacing really let this book down. Everything just happens too fast. There wasn’t enough time to process any of Naila’s experiences and this meant that I didn’t particularly care for her during the first half of the book. Still, it does get much better in the second half, even if everything unfolds just as fast. Despite the disappointment of the beginning, I really enjoyed the ending. I may have even cried at the epilogue.
Overall, I had mixed feeling about this book, but I won’t deny that it’s important, and extremely heart-breaking. It’s really worrying that I wasn’t at all shocked by Naila’s story because I’ve grown-up knowing this happens in my culture, even to people I’ve been to school with. It’s a sad truth, and though Naila gets a happy ending, many simply do not.