Summary (from the publisher):
To cure her post–senior year slump, made worse by the loss of her aunt Sonia, Noreen is ready to follow her mom on a gap year trip to New Delhi, hoping India can lessen her grief and bring her voice back.
In the world’s most polluted city, Noreen soon meets kind, handsome Kabir, who introduces her to the wonders of this magical, complicated place. With Kabir’s help—plus Bollywood celebrities, fourteenth-century ruins, karaoke parties, and Sufi saints—Noreen begins to rediscover her joyful voice.
But when a family scandal erupts, Noreen and Kabir must face complicated questions in their own relationship: What does it mean to truly stand by someone—and what are the boundaries of love?
My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
In a world where we are traveling less than we used to, I’ve been really attracted to books taking place in other countries than the US, which helped lead me to Sheba Karim’s The Marvelous Mirza Girls. A year after the loss of her aunt Sonia, Noreen decides to take a gap year in between high school and college and join her mother on a work trip to New Dehli for a few months. There, Noreen meets Kabir, who shows her various sites around New Dehli to help Noreen confront her grief and learn more about her culture.
The Marvelous Mirza Girls has so many great elements that were all really well-balanced. Noreen is a writer and dreams of writing a TV show one day, but has struggled to write since the unexpected death of her aunt Sonia. The book starts off a year after Sonia’s death, and Noreen remains in deep grief. Her mother, Ruby, hopes that a change in location to New Delhi will help lift both their spirits and get Noreen back to writing. I’m usually hesitant about comparing books to TV shows, but The Marvelous Mirza Girls completely deserves the Gilmore Girls comparisons. Ruby and Noreen have such a relaxed, yet strong mother-daughter dynamic. They both easily agree to spending some of Noreen’s gap year in New Dehli together, they talk about dating and relationships with ease, and like Lorelai and Rory, they have a penchant for junk food. I also thought Noreen’s grief and emotions surrounding her aunt’s death were well developed. With each site Kabir takes Noreen to, she works through her grief and feels a closer connection to her aunt. The book also somewhat delves into Noreen’s relationship with her estranged father, making Noreen all the more grateful for her relationship with her mother. I loved the emphasis and inclusion of positive female relationships, especially between a mother and daughter.
Fans of Diksha Basu’s Destination Wedding will really enjoy The Marvelous Mirza Girls because they take place in similar settings and have similar senses of humor that are more on the dry and sarcastic side. I really liked Noreen’s sense of humor and seeing her writing and comedy evolve over the course of the story. I also really enjoyed getting to explore New Dehli, visiting the many cultural and spiritual sites alongside Kabir & Noreen and seeing the various socioeconomic differences there. Each chapter begins with the air quality index in New Dehli, and Noreen wears a mask depending on the air quality. While this doesn’t seem too different from our current world, it is a definitely an eye-opening look at the way of life in India.
The Marvelous Mirza Girls is definitely on the mature side of YA, which I totally appreciated as a twenty-something YA reader. Noreen talks about sex and her body, there are a few romance-like scenes, and there’s drinking and smoking. I really enjoyed the open discussion of these topics between Noreen and her mom, Kabir, and even their hilarious neighbor, Geeta Auntie. Although I didn’t necessarily mind this following element, there is a storyline involving the Me Too Movement and one of Kabir’s family members, which felt slightly out-of-place and may have needed more development. I think it was included to provide a glimpse of the Me Too Movement and the treatment of women in India, as Noreen often remarks on the levels of violence and rape in New Dehli throughout, but Kabir’s family’s involvement wasn’t fully fleshed out.
Overall, I really enjoyed Sheba Karim’s The Marvelous Mirza Girls for its mother-daughter relationship, Indian setting, and maturity. I’m looking forward to checking out more of Sheba Karim’s books!
The Marvelous Mirza Girls comes out on May 18th, 2021.
This review is based on an advance reader’s edition provided by the publisher. By no means did receiving this review copy affect my thoughts & opinions.
Is The Marvelous Mirza Girls on your TBR? Have you read any books by Sheba Karim? If you could spend a gap year in any country, where would you go? Share in the comments!