Ashish Patel didn’t know love could be so…sucky. After he’s dumped by his ex-girlfriend, his mojo goes AWOL. Even worse, his parents are annoyingly, smugly confident they could find him a better match. So, in a moment of weakness, Ash challenges them to set him up.
The Patels insist that Ashish date an Indian-American girl—under contract. Per subclause 1(a), he’ll be taking his date on “fun” excursions like visiting the Hindu temple and his eccentric Gita Auntie. Kill him now. How is this ever going to work?
Sweetie Nair is many things: a formidable track athlete who can outrun most people in California, a loyal friend, a shower-singing champion. Oh, and she’s also fat. To Sweetie’s traditional parents, this last detail is the kiss of death.
Sweetie loves her parents, but she’s so tired of being told she’s lacking because she’s fat. She decides it’s time to kick off the Sassy Sweetie Project, where she’ll show the world (and herself) what she’s really made of.
Ashish and Sweetie both have something to prove. But with each date they realize there’s an unexpected magic growing between them. Can they find their true selves without losing each other?
Trigger warnings: intense fatphobia (challenged)
I very much enjoyed Sandhya Menon’s previous novels, but I think that There’s Something About Sweetie is her best book yet. Following both Ashish and Sweetie, the reader gets an in-depth look at the various challenges that they’re both facing. Ashish feels like he can’t live up to his older brother Rishi, who seems like the perfect son. And Sweetie’s mom keeps challenging her to lose weight, despite the fact that Sweetie is happy with how she looks (as she should be!) and is a top track athlete.
Obviously I can’t talk about the Indian-American representation, but I can talk about the plus size rep! And OH MAN. It was perfect! I think Sandhya Menon has talked somewhere about how she has been many sizes in her life, so she could write about being plus size from experience. That definitely showed, to me.
“If the word “fat” makes you cringe, I hope you’ll stop and examine why that is. What do you think when you see the word “thin”? My guess is nothing, or at least, nothing bad. So then, is there anything inherently wrong with being fat? Or have we just been conditioned to see the words “worthless” or “lazy” or “bad” instead of “fat”?”
There were so many areas that Sandhya Menon touched on, in regards to fatphobia – from dating to clothing to constantly having to challenge other people’s views. It might get a bit overwhelming for some people to read, so please make sure you’re in the right headspace to read all this. However, what I loved is that Sweetie stayed realistically positive about herself throughout. Of course she has some moments where she thinks she should give into her family’s pressure, especially as her mom is so insidiously fatphobic (she very much gave off the ‘I care about your health’ vibe, without realising that she is damaging Sweetie’s mental health by focusing on her weight). However, Sweetie consistently rises above this, and knows that she is amazing and healthy, and doesn’t need to change one bit.
As with many body positive YA novels, I really wish that I could have read this when I was a teenager. It would have made such a big difference to the way that I saw myself. Even now, reading it gave me such a confidence boost!
“She was constantly being forced to think of herself as the before picture, but when she spoke to her cousin, she saw that the after picture could include her just as she was right now.”
Aside from the representation, I enjoyed the romance between Ashish and Sweetie a lot. They go on a couple of parent-approved dates to a local temple and to a Holi celebration. I don’t know a lot about Hinduism, so that was really interesting for me to read about. (Side note: I really need to read some books that focus on religions other than Christianity. I know woefully little about them.) The side-characters were also great, and felt very well-rounded, especially in with Ashish’s friendship group.
This is a very sweet book – some might say too sweet. But not me! I think that the balance between fluffy romance and challenging important topics such as fatphobia are just right. Even if you didn’t really enjoy When Dimple Met Rishi, I would definitely encourage you to give this book a go.