When I attended YALLWest in April, I also attended the Friday preview night, which was just a bunch of early signings for select authors. While waiting in line, I overheard someone talking about a book and I awkwardly interrupted and joined the conversation. I ended up chatting with her for a little bit and, lo and behold, it was actually debut author Ananya Devarajan! Long story short, I ended up finding her and some of her team the following day at the main event and snagged an ARC of her upcoming debut YA romance Kismat Connection.
Madhuri Iyer is doomed to failure in her senior year according to her astrology obsessed mother and doomed to find her happily-ever-after with her first boyfriend according to her family curse. Desperate to prove that she possesses free will, she creates an experiment to disprove her star chart and her family curse. She dives into a fake relationship with the one boy she knows she'll never fall for: her childhood best friend Arjun Mehta. The only thing she didn't anticipate is that Arjun has been hopelessly in love with Madhuri for years.
Listen, I know we're all simps for enemies-to-lovers around these parts, but there is just something about childhood-best-friends-to-lovers that slaps. (Side note: Did I just use a couple Gen Z slang terms correctly? Who even am I?!) The friendship between Madhuri and Arjun has been developed over the course of many years and is probably stronger than some romantic relationships. Told from dual POVs, we get to see inside the heads of both of these characters and really understand their relationship in way that warms the heart. While I obviously don't believe that strong platonic relationships need to turn romantic, it's clear from the start (even if Madhuri won't admit it to herself) that they are more than just platonic friends.
In addition to Madhuri and Arjun's relationship, we also see their respective relationships with their families (Madhuri with her parents and sister and Arjun with his mother). The vast different between the two families reminds readers that, regardless of whether there is a shared cultural community, each individual and each relationship is not the same. Society has a habit of shoving people into a box based on one thing and that's not always the case, as can be clearly seen in Madhuri's strong relationship with her family vs. Arjun's strained relationship with his mother.
And speaking of culture, we are given a glimpse into how Indian culture affects the way in which the children of immigrants interact with the world. Though both Arjun and Madhuri are Indian, Madhuri's best friend Josie, who we see often in the book, is not and there are multiple instances in which she acts as a stand-in for the (non-Indian) reader. There are certain things an outsider, even if they have the best intentions, just can't understand because they haven't lived it and Ananya is able to use Madhuri and Josie to help shine a light on some of those things.
A beautiful story that is filled with love and culture, I repeatedly found myself angry whenever I was interrupted from my reading because I just wanted to stay immersed in the world and alongside these people. Madhuri can get a bit frustrating at times because of how stubborn she is, but she is still relatable and lovable. Arjun, on the other hand, is bae and can do no wrong in my book. With this heartwarming debut, Ananya has wormed her way into my heart and I can't wait to see what comes next from her.
Kismat Connection by Ananya Devarajan hits shelves on June 13, 2023 and you can preorder a copy for yourself here.
Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher for free and have voluntarily written this review. If you purchase a copy using my Bookshop affiliate link above, not only will I receive a small commission (which will fuel my coffee and tea addiction and help to keep me up all night reading more books to recommend to you), but you will be supporting indie bookstores as well! If you prefer Amazon, visit my Amazon storefront and click on the list titled "2023 Book Recommendations."