**Disclaimer: I was given a free e-book of the below in exchange for an honest review as part of a tour hosted by Hear Our Voices Tours via NetGalley.**
I’d like to begin by thanking Hear Our Voices tours for reaching out and including me on this tour.
Title More Than Just a Pretty Face
Author Syed M. Masood
Release Date August 4, 2020
Publisher Little Brown Books for Young Readers
For fans of Becky Albertalli and Jenny Han, a sweetly funny YA rom-com debut about falling in love, familial expectations, and being a Renaissance Man.
Danyal Jilani doesn’t lack confidence. He may not be the smartest guy in the room, but he’s funny, gorgeous, and going to make a great chef one day. His father doesn’t approve of his career choice, but that hardly matters. What does matter is the opinion of Danyal’s longtime crush, the perfect-in-all-ways Kaval, and her family, who consider him a less than ideal arranged marriage prospect.
When Danyal gets selected for Renaissance Man–a school-wide academic championship–it’s the perfect opportunity to show everyone he’s smarter than they think. He recruits the brilliant, totally-uninterested-in-him Bisma to help with the competition, but the more time Danyal spends with her…the more he learns from her…the more he cooks for her…the more he realizes that happiness may be staring him right in his pretty face.
I was super excited when Hear Our Voices Tours contacted me about reviewing this book. I had applied for it in NetGalley already and knew this was a book I wanted to read.
Some Things I Liked
- Own Voices. I loved that about this book. Many of the themes in the book felt super close to home. Danyal’s dad thinking that he wasn’t really good for much since he wasn’t smart enough to be a doctor or engineer. The idea of women just being there to sit home and cook and look pretty. Oh yeah, those are ideas that I’m familiar with and strongly disagree with. I loved that this book challenged those ideas. I am half Indian and have been told many similar things that Danyal had so I really identified with him.
- A different POV than the contemporary books I’ve read. That’s another thing that I really liked. I don’t normally read contemporary books from non-female POVs so this was a breath of fresh air. I liked that Danyal was kind and friendly and in many ways, challenged archaic gender roles.
- Food as a theme. I worked in a restaurant all through college and I loved the way the author described food as an experience of love.
- Difficult themes. This book goes into some themes that are not all flowers and unicorns. For example, Danyal has a friend who is deeply religious, in almost an obsessive way. His beliefs often caused friction between their friends who didn’t always see eye to eye. Similarly, Danyal struggles with his project about Winston Churchill, who is often regarded as a “hero”. I loved the way the author worked in lesser known history and religion into the story in an enlightening and refreshing way.
I’d love to read a follow up novel about Danyal in the future, living life. But, I think his story is complete. I would also enjoy reading a spin-off about any of the side characters we met. I think this group of characters has tons of potential.
Lastly, I’d like to read more from Syed M. Masood. I really enjoyed the writing style here and would gladly read more.
I loved this book. I read it all in one day and couldn’t put it down. Once again, I found this is a contemporary novel that high school age Monica could have really used. I’m so glad to see positive messages like those found in this novel are being spread in literature today.
Recommendations for Further Reading
- The Perfect Escape by Suzanne Park – if you liked the themes of cultural pressure and living up to parental expectations, try this own voices story.
- The Marriage Game by Sara Desai – if you’re looking for a book with similar representation but want something with older characters, try this 2020 release.