Review: Written in the Stars – Aisha Saeed

Written in the Stars
Book cover: Naila looks at the night sky. In the distance is a city.  The borders are an arch.

Written in the Stars was my first read for Asian Lit Bingo. I chose it because I’ve been meaning to read a book about an arranged marriaged and quite a few #ownvoices bloggers had recommended this one

Naila’s secret relationship with her boyfriend, Saif, is uncovered and her parents take her to Pakistan. The true purpose of the trip, finding a husband for Naila, is covered up. Will she be able to leave?

This is an #ownvoices book.

This is an incredible story. In my opinion, it’s not easy to craft a story about arranged marriage that doesn’t become harmful or perpetuate stereotypes but this story managed that. The character’s motives and decisions are nuanced and we are shown that Pakistanis and Muslims are nuanced and diverse. They are complicated characters and not one-dimensional. There is more to them than meets the eye.

There is one rape scene in this book and I think it’s important to mention it because it might be a trigger. In my opinion, it was presented in a non-harmful manner and the fact that it was rape was not erased. The character continues living with him as she doesn’t know where else to go, but does not forget what he did, and reminds him of his crime when she leaves him.

The quick scenes, simple writing and overall fast read, led to it being a very fast-paced and direct book. I was really emotional while reading it. I wanted people to help Naila, but the author illustrates how the different people cannot or will not help. It was really sad.

One part that resonated with me is that Saif was sorry for yelling to Naila’s parents even though they were in the wrong. It illustrated how important respecting elders is for him. Saif and Naila really suited each other. It was incredible how they both tried to help each other through the separation even though they couldn’t contact each other easily.

One question I had after reading this book is what did Selma end up doing in the end. Where is she now?

I especially liked the open-ending and it caused me to contemplate about the entire story and what I would have done if I were in Naila’s shoes.

It’s a very powerful book and I recommend it. It is reality for many girls though. Don’t forget that this is just one story of Pakistani Americans and not the only story.

I would be very interested in reading a sequel about Naila and Saif’s life, or a standalone book focussing on Selma.

Trigger warnings: rape, forced marriage, physical abuse.

5 stars

Have you read Written in the Stars? What did you think of it?


13 thoughts on “Review: Written in the Stars – Aisha Saeed

  1. I neeeed to pick this one up! Aisha is actually local to me, and I went to her launch party for this book, but I still have yet to read it. I’m planning on finally getting to it this summer! I always love emotional reads, and I also really enjoy open endings. Fantastic review!


  2. Oh I had picked up this book at one point but didn’t really finish due to time constraints and a book slump. Definitely planning on picking it up again though! It sounds incredible and I can’t wait to read it. ❤ Lovely review!


  3. I’ve been meaning to read this for a while and you made me want to pick this up even more. The only arrange marriage story I’ve read was from The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and I thought that was done well and I have been on the look out for other books. Great Review!


  4. This was a really powerful book for me to read as well. I liked how the author’s note at the end points out that this is a reality for many girls, that it’s a hidden secret even in America, and that it isn’t always a bad situation – but it’s not always a good situation either. I reviewed this recently on my blog as well. Great review!


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