If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
Published by: Algonquin Young Readers
Genres: Young Adult, Romance, LGBTQIA+, Contemporary
Date Read: 17/09/16
This Forbidden Romance Could Cost Them Their Lives
Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love–Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed. So they carry on in secret until Nasrin’s parents suddenly announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution: homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman’s body is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. Sahar will never be able to love Nasrin in the body she wants to be loved in without risking their lives, but is saving their love worth sacrificing her true self?
If You Could Be Mine tells the story of Sahar, an intelligent ambitious teenager living in Iran who is in love with her best friend Nasrin. Iran is a dangerous place to be out of the closet, although there is a hidden gay community, which Sahar is introduced to by her cousin Ali. Sahar is living with her father after the death of her mother. While her father lives his life like a ghost, still heartbroken my the loss of his wife, Sahar keeps herself busy. She is studying for exams that will determine her future and which university she will be able to get into, while she at the same time struggles with hiding her feelings for Nasrin.
While homosexuality is a crime, Sahar learns that sex reassignment surgeries are legal and even paid by the government. After meeting a group of people who have gone through the surgery, Sahar is determined to get herself into a surgery and into a body of a man in order to make sure Nasrin can be with her instead of her new fiance. While Sahar tries to tell herself that things will be easier if she becomes a man, she does not feel uncomfortable in her body. Actually, she quite loves her body and wants to be able to be loved as a woman by another woman, but she knows that in her society, that is just not possible.
This book was more of a love story than I expected. I knew that was central to the plot, but I had trouble buying into the relationship. Part of problem, for me, was that apparently Sahar has wanted to marry her friend Nasrin since she was six. Rather than see their relationship developed, as readers we’re thrown into the middle of Sahar’s lovesick devotion.
Because we’re following Sahar, the love story almost always feels one sided and unhealthy. Even though Nasrin is attracted to Sahar, it’s clear that she never intended for the relationship to continue into adulthood. Nasrin comes across as selfish and spoiled whereas Sahar comes across as a devoted little puppy, following Nasrin around.
I’d say it’s worth reading if you’re interested in homosexuality in an oppressive culture, but it’s also quite flawed. It focuses too much on the unhealthy unbalanced high school relationship, which takes away from the potential important discussion on transsexuality and homosexuality. It’s hard to root for Sahar when you feel like she’s better off without Nasrin, especially when the book is so centered on Sahar trying to keep the relationship going.
I liked this book a lot. The love interest could be kind of infuriating, and I just never truly believed them as a couple. But to be quite honest, I’m not sure how much we were supposed to. I think the book was trying to be more about the traits of the protagonist than about her relationship, which was a good thing.
This was the first book I’ve read set in Iran and I found the culture and laws quite intimidating. Even though I’m not blind to what life is like in that country, especially for women, it was still shocking to find out the extent of it all that still exists to this day. I wish it had gone further in showing Iran, though; the beliefs and culture, the ways of life. I feel like the setting had so much untouched potential.
The main topic in this novel revolves around what it’s like to be gay in a country such as Iran, the dangers and obstacles that are encountered are appalling. As it’s against the law to have a relationship with the same sex, except if you get a sex change, sex changes are common amongst young and old. They’re even encouraged when someone finds themselves questioning their sexuality. Sahar thinks this is what she needs to do to get Nasrin to cancel her engagement. It’s an incredibly difficult situation; I felt sympathetic towards them both.
The writing was well done and although this is a young adult book it doesn’t shy away from mature subjects. The ending did feel rushed, but was satisfying. Despite my frustrations while reading, I was immersed in the book and enjoyed it. Farizan turned a forbidden love story into a debate about how far we are willing to compromise our values for love. Sahar is against adultery, but a sex change is considerable? She meets Parvern, a transgender boy who went through the surgery and together they discuss several LGBT themes.
All in all, If You Could Be Mine is a quick read that has a surprising amount of character depth, an exceptionally unique premise, and a realistic ending that is greatly appreciated. This was very different from anything I’ve read before. I would recommend this book to people who want to read a diverse, but hard hitting story about young love between two girls in Iran. If You Could Be Mine is one of those books that I’m glad I read.