Title: 96 Words for Love
Author: Rachel Roy and Ava Dash
Genre: YA, slice of life, romance, retelling
Is this part of a series? No.
Publish Date: January 15th, 2019
(From Goodreads because I don’t believe the blurb is perfect as is)
James Patterson Presents a modern retelling of a classic Indian legend, 96 Words for Love is a touching coming-of-age story that reads like Eat, Pray, Love for teens.
Ever since her acceptance to UCLA, 17-year-old Raya Liston has been quietly freaking out. She feels simultaneously lost and trapped by a future already mapped out for her.
Then her beloved grandmother dies, and Raya jumps at the chance to spend her last free summer at the ashram in India where her grandmother met and fell in love with her grandfather. Raya hopes to find her center and her true path. But she didn’t expect to fall in love… with a country of beautiful contradictions, her fiercely loyal cousin, a local girl with a passion for reading, and a boy who teaches her that in Sanskrit, there are 96 different ways to say the word “love.”
A modern retelling of the classic Indian legend of Shakuntala and Dushyanta, 96 Words for Love is a coming-of-age story about finding yourself in unexpected places.
First and foremost, our Raya has some serious anxiety issues, which I think heighten her need to know what to do at all times. She’s a thinker, a planner, a worrier. When Daadee, one of the most important people in her life, dies her world comes crashing down. Already, she was dreading the next year with UCLA- not that she minded the college or college in general…. just that this meant it was time to think about forever. What she studied here was what she would do for the rest of her life. I could kind of understand these things, being a worrier that needs to know how things are gonna go at all times (my coworkers work hard to be sure that I know what I am doing and who’s with me every day, bless them. We even have a Money Center planner with schedules, helpful hints and things that need done… not the everyday, but when new paperwork comes through, procedures change or technology is being temperamental. It’s embarrassing that this makes me feel more confident, but there we have it.). But I digress…. my point: I get Raya. Her anxiety, her drive to do everything well, the voices in her head that won’t shut up so she can meditate… same.
I also loved the other character- even Devin. I am pretty sure we have all met the well-meaning girl that never thinks about how what she says or does comes across to others. Is she a tiny bit racist? Yes, but in a really weird way. She loves the exotic, the beauty, of different cultures and doesn’t get that constantly pointing them out or having “can I touch your hair” moments are off putting. Anandi and Pilot were fantastic characters- multifaceted and interesting. I also thought Pihu was a fantastic addition, she not only helped Raya find something she loved, but with her warmth, spirit and determination she showed Raya that it was okay to not be perfect right away.
Kiran was odd for me. There were moments that I loved him and moments where I would have happily strangled him. He started out here with an eye for beautiful things. As a film-maker he saw the world differently and that appealed to Raya. That said, anything that wasn’t beautiful and perfect was quickly glossed over. Problems with the village school? Instead of going to help, he was going to have his parents donate money once he was finally “out of here” (the gorgeous ashram that a lot of others had paid a great amount of money to get into). He seemed spoiled, juvenile at times. But then there were moments of kindness, like when he would find things to show Raya and how supportive he was of her. I do feel, though, that he and Raya definitely had the most character development and I appreciate that. I still don’t know how I feel about their relationship. It’s not the worst ever…. but I am not totally into it either.
The story line was really good, and the writing had a nice, even flow. It grabbed my attention pretty quickly, and I found it to be a fast and interesting read. I liked the bits of mythology and the addition of Daadee’s things. There just seemed to be something missing for me. I can’t explain it. I don’t feel completely fulfilled with the story. ( I also want to know more about Pilot and Anandi- if they were to get their own stories I would totally read that.) For me, this was a three star book with one for creativity. It was really good, and I do recommend it, but it left me feeling a bit unfulfilled.
On the adult content scale, there’s language and some sexual content. It is geared toward teens, and isn’t too explicit though. I would give it a four.
The book is out! Have you read it?
Link to book: