Bookblogger Charvi Koul Reviews Sabina Khan’s What A Desi Girl Wants

What A Desi Girl Wants by Sabina Khan is inspired by the 2000s rom-com What A Girl Wants, with a desi twist. The protagonist Mehar is Indian royalty, daughter of the Nawab of Agra, but she has lived with her mother in Kansas for most of her life and has only a tenuous relationship with her father. When Mehar’s father decides to remarry and invites her to the palace for the wedding, she agrees, with a secret mission to repair her relationship with her father. But her suspicions of her to be stepmother and step-sister’s true intentions with her father and family only get solidified when she meets them in person. All Mehar knows is that they’re bad news and she cannot allow them to take advantage of her father. How can she break up this relationship while keeping her father’s trust?

What A Desi Girl Wants is a riveting rollercoaster led by the lovely Mehar who is an absolute firecracker. Bold, honest and a girl who wears her heart on her sleeve, Mehar is the kind of character you immediately like. I felt like I was right by her side as she entered the world of Indian royalty and re-immersed herself in the culture and traditions she had long left behind. 

Khan paints a beautiful and colourful picture of Agra while enveloping the reader in the culture. With illustrative descriptions of the food and surroundings and a sprinkling of the history behind the family ancestry and the palace, Sabina Khan is able to construct a wonderful world with the reader right at the center. I felt truly at home while reading this book, and the description of lavish food items page after page was just making me drool. You might want to keep the number of your nearby Indian restaurant handy when you’re reading this book!

The novel layers complex themes of culture and sexuality. I loved seeing Mehar’s modern, liberal views clash with the more traditional and conservative style of her Indian family. It was woven through each and every conversation and scene and both sides were so well-represented and fairly depicted. This was especially something that came into play when we got to the sapphic romance. While on one side we have the bold Indian-American who isn’t afraid to live life by her own rules, the love interest Sufiya is an assistant to Mehar’s grandmother. More soft-spoken and someone who doesn’t stray from the traditions, Sufiya’s life has always been centered around her family and making the best of the life she is living thanks to their sacrifices. Being queer in India is definitely different from being queer in the West; as an Indian reader, I appreciated the nuanced manner in which this book brought that out in Mehar and Sufiya’s budding relationship while keeping it realistic. Unlike Mehar, Sufiya was born and brought up in a country where being the queer community is ostracised and constantly in danger, with the burden of being a perfect daughter to support and pave the way for the rest of her family. Being raised liberally with a certain degree of freedom, Mehar often doesn’t understand where Sufiya’s fear and paranoia, her hesitation of giving into this part of her, comes in from. I think this was an important strand that Khan picked upon and explored quite well: how being queer and being true to yourself can mean such different things to different people and in different cultures.

All in all, this is a fun read that goes into so much more depth than you might expect. It has a huge cast of well-developed characters and portrays some heartwarming relationships when it comes to family, friendships and romance. 

Bound to Enjoy

What A Desi Girl Wants is a queer, multicultural romance with a humorous flair. Full with royal splendour and rules, budding relationships and a journey to find yourself. You might want to pick up this book if you liked books such as Darius the Great is Not Okay, The Dos and Donuts of Love, and Imogen, Obviously.

Highlights (LITerally)

“I don’t want to talk about the many ways it sucks that Sufiya and I can’t be honest about who we really are. But this is not the time or place for that conversation. I’m realistic enough to know that I can’t decide for her and that how she chooses to live her life is up to her. I can only hope that one day we can be together in the way we want.”
“I have a history with this place, with these people who are my family but from whom my connection has been severed for a long time. It’s time to rebuild these relationships, because even though I was a little girl when I left, they are a part of who I am and it’s a part of me I’m longing to rediscover”

About the Reviewer

Charvi is a 22 year old reading fanatic with a flair for writing and unending love for fictional characters. She lives in India where she’s pursuing psychology and chasing her love for translation. Charvi loves to read anything fiction, especially fantasy and contemporary books that she’s always up to blabber about on social media. On any given occasion you can find her daydreaming about books, plotting stories in her head, painting in any blank space or blogging away.