Sway With Me by Syed M. Masood
Hatchette/Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: November 2, 2021
Being homeschooled by his nearly 100-year-old great grandfather (Nana) has left seventeen-year-old Indian American Arsalan with an impressive vocabulary and not an ounce of cool. Considering that Nana doesn’t likely have many years left on this earth, Arsalan comes to the conclusion he needs to get engaged. Not married, just engaged. He just wants a guarantee that he won’t be left alone when Nana dies. So he makes a deal with Beenish, whose stepmother is the “premier matchmaking aunty of the Greater Sacramento Area” and so presumably knows something about the matchmaking process. Beenish agrees to set him up with someone if he will be her dance partner for her sister’s upcoming wedding. A wedding — Arsalan soon discovers — that Beenish wants to end before it happens, primarily through choreographing an outrageously inappropriate dance that will be sure to offend her sister’s in-laws-to-be.
This desi send-up of She’s All That is in turns hilarious and poignant without ever turning saccharine. Not only are Beenish and Arsalan perfect “opposites attract” (or balance, as Beenish’s sister would say) characters, but they are also richly drawn, authentic, and completely loveable. Secondary characters like Nana and their friend Diamond are also well-developed and add depth to the story. While fun Bollywood references offer a perfect backdrop to this romantic comedy, Masood isn’t afraid to explore important teen themes like identity and family relationships.
Give this to fans of Masood’s first book, More Than a Pretty Face, or When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. Netflix viewers who love “Indian Matchmaking” or “Never Have I Ever” may enjoy this sweet romance set in the California desi community.
Other Nominated Titles
- Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen (November 2, 2021)
- Perfect on Paper by Sophie Gonzales (March 9, 2021)
The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.
Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten. The previous years’ lists are available on The Hub.