The Love & Lies Of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan
Release Date: January 29, 2019
Available Through The Book Depository: The Love & Lies Of Rukhsana Ali
Summary: Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but lately she’s finding that harder and harder to do. She rolls her eyes instead of screaming when they blatantly favor her brother and she dresses conservatively at home, saving her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don’t know about. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life in Seattle and her new life at Caltech, where she can pursue her dream of becoming an engineer.
But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana’s plans fall apart. Her parents are devastated; being gay may as well be a death sentence in the Bengali community. They immediately whisk Rukhsana off to Bangladesh, where she is thrown headfirst into a world of arranged marriages and tradition. Only through reading her grandmother’s old diary is Rukhsana able to gain some much needed perspective.
Rukhsana realizes she must find the courage to fight for her love, but can she do so without losing everyone and everything in her life?
*Received ARC through author’s giveaway*
My Rating: ★★★★☆
My Thoughts: Sabina Khan’s debut is a character-driven YA Contemporary that explores a number of topics from family, to love and acceptance. It also tackles a number of sensitive and tough issues such as homophobia and abuse. Rukhsana’s journey is one filled with so many layers as she rebels against her conservative parents to live her life with the love of her choosing!
2019 is really a year for even more inclusive and diverse novels! Love And Lies is a contemporary I had been looking forward for a while! Not only did I want to learn more about Rukhsana’s story and her journey, but I’ve also been thinking a lot more about different representations I can support more and boost as a blogger, such as Lesbian + f/f rep!
The Love And Lies Of Rukhsana Ali follows 17-year-old Rukhsana who is ready to head to Cal Tech with her girlfriend Ariana, despite what her conservative Bengali-Muslim parents may think.
She’s ready to start her new life and she’s kept her relationship a secret for months. However, everything changes when Rukhsana’s mother catches her kissing her girlfriend and everything she’s been dreaming of, is shattered.
Now after tricking Rukhsana into a trip, her parents are taking her to Bangladesh in order to find a husband for her before she goes to university.
As I was writing this review I found it difficult to get all my thoughts together, mainly because I just felt so many different emotions while reading this book.
I was angry with with how Rukhsana’s parents (mainly mother) was treating her. I was waiting for the moment that her mother would see how her solution was not the right one, see from Rukhsana’s perspective, and develop a more open-minded way of seeing the situation.
I was scared and anxious for Rukhsana seeing how her parents viewed her after learning about Ariana and you can’t help but just feel sad.
Obviously you’re supposed to be frustrated with Rukhsana’s mother for treating her this way (which I certainly was), but you also can’t help but feel frustrated with Ariana as well. Mainly because, it was tough reading how she wasn’t easily able to understand how difficult the situation was for Rukhsana to get out of.
Ariana isn’t Bengali and with community explored so much throughout this novel–especially seen through the Bengali community that Rukhsana’s mother has strong ties with– it was frustrating to read that Ariana found the situation so easy to overcome.
Ariana was very focused on what Rukhsana ought to do, that she didn’t think about what was holding her back and making it tough for her to be open about the both of them.
However, there were obviously so many bright and shining elements in Rukhsana’s life that gave her and us hope!
I love how family and love are such central elements to this novel. We see that Rukhsana, regardless of her parents views, learns she has a strong support system behind her–her brother Aamir, friends, Ariana, her cousin Shalia, Sohail (one of the guys who becomes Rukhsana’s potential husband) and especially her grandmother.
Rukhsana herself doesn’t give up to try and fight for the love she and Ariana share.
Rukhsana’s grandmother is one of the shining lights in her life during her time in Bangladesh. She’s worried whether or not her grandmother will accept her for being gay, but soon finds just how accepting she is.
I loved the dynamic with Rukhsana’s grandmother because through her diary we learn of her past that was very difficult for her–living through abuse. rape, and an arranged marriage she was not happy with (tw). However, although she went through many difficult situations she is always supportive of Rukhsana and reminds her to never stop believing for the life she wants.
I was also surprised to learn more about Rukhsana’s mother through the diary as well. She had a difficult childhood and it was surprising to learn about what she went through in her backstory.
One of my favorite dynamics of this book was definitely Rukhsana with her brother Aamir! He’s continually shown to be a supportive younger brother and though its clear he’s the favorite of the family, he still gives it his all to be there for Rukhsana and help her get out their parents idea.
I also loved seeing Rukhsana & Sohail work together! I don’t want to spoil what happens, but wow–his story arc really surprised me and I was not expecting it! He was another one of my favorite characters in this book.
In terms of representation, this novel features Bengali-Muslim characters (Rukhsana and her family), lesbian rep (Ariana & Rukhsana), gay rep (Sohail), and is set mainly in Bangladesh.
Khan does a great job at making it easy to get into Rukhsana’s head (with the novel being in 1st-person) and with that, make the story incredibly immersive and fast-paced.
Though it’s obvious, I also loved that Khan explored and made clear that not every person (regardless of coming from the same background) thinks the same way about certain issues and topics.
I found myself easily connecting with the main and supporting characters. For the most part, a majority of the characters of the characters (besides Rukhsana’s friends from school) felt very developed.
However, for me personally, the reason I did take off a star was the fact that I did find the writing to be a little difficult to really connect with. In terms of story its great, but the writing I found made moments a bit too quick and it was very simplistic at times.
With the style of writing, it made Rukhsana’s POV feel surface level at times (in terms of descriptions and certain character development) and made her emotional development feel rushed and disconnected at points.
Aside from that, Khan’s debut is one that is filled with heart, depth, all while showcasing the complexity of love, relationships, and family.
I’m also so happy to see how (though its more present near the end) Rukhsana’s parents were putting in more effort to change their views and accept Rukhsana fully. Though its obviously the point, I’m also still frustrated it took so long for her parents to change.
The Love And Lies Of Rukhsana Ali is a debut that explores culture, family, identity, love, and so much more! Khan’s YA Contemporary is a character-driven tale that follows a heroine determined to live and seek out a life of her choosing regardless of what her parents believe. Khan weaves in numerous complex topics all while creating a story that is both impactful and hopeful!
Similar to my Gilded Wolves review, I’m getting back into shouting out fellow book bloggers reviews of books I’ve read! So I recommend checking out😍💕📚✨:
The Love & Lies Of Rukhsana Ali Review from Fadwa over at WordWoonders
I’ve followed Fadwa’s reviews for years! I love the writing-style and depth to her reviews in regards to the characters and how they connect with the story!
Overall she goes into a lot more depth about the topics I discuss in my review and I just love how she formats all the elements and discussions within her reviews about books she reads! Definitely read her review of Rukhsana if you need more convincing to check it out!