A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai
Summary: Fifteen-year-old Simran "Simi" Sangha comes from a long line of Indian vichole-matchmakers-with a rich history for helping parents find good matches for their grown children. When Simi accidentally sets up her cousin and a soon-to-be lawyer, her family is thrilled that she has the "gift."
But Simi is an artist, and she doesn't want to have anything to do with relationships, helicopter parents, and family drama. That is, until she realizes this might be just the thing to improve her and her best friend Noah's social status. Armed with her family's ancient guide to finding love, Simi starts a matchmaking service-via an app, of course.
But when she helps connect a wallflower of a girl with the star of the boys' soccer team, she turns the high school hierarchy topsy-turvy, soon making herself public enemy number one.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: If you've been missing the younger YA books with the recent burst of 17 and 18 year old protagonists, then you need to pick up A Match Made in Mehendi. With a 15-year-old sophomore as the protagonist, this book shines with earnestness and teenagery feels that never border on angsty. The main character, Simi, doesn't have dramatic blowups with her family or best friend. She's just navigating her insular world, and sure, there's a mean girl character, but proper repercussions are put in place for every one of that girl's actions. Most of the important characters aren't blind to the mean girl's flaws, and thankfully, Simi isn't interested in stealing the mean girl's (ex) boyfriend.
What she is interested in is finding an activity to set her place in her high school. She's also not sure she wants to join her family's matchmaking business. But when Simi finds a way to combine generational traditions with modern day technology...well, she really gets into the idea.
Simi is also passionate about art in the best way. She gets a little romance of her own (though that's hardly the focus), and she cares about her best friend, Noah. And like I said, there's no family drama. When Simi messes up, her mother and grandmother are disappointed, but they also want Simi to be the best version of her. And Mr. and Mrs. Sangha are never overbearing parents like you see too often in YA literature. A Match Made in Mehendi also celebrates Indian (and Indian-American) culture. The characters eat plenty of Indian food and describe it. Simi sometimes talks about the nuances of matchmaking across specific Indian ethnicities. And I really loved how the book was never about Simi fighting her family's traditions and trying to be more "American," or the opposite. The one thing I'm uncertain about is how willing Simi was to give white classmates mehendi tattoos (henna, as you might know it). Obviously there is the side of wanting to share culture, but I also wondered if the line into cultural appropriation might be crossed by the white girls wearing mehendi? That's not something I can answer, though, and obviously this is an #ownvoices book, so the author probably knows best!
Content warnings: a little foul language (not much), bullying
The Verdict: So, so, so cute and sweet.
Will I be adding this book to my library?: Yes!