I’m a huge fan of Sandhya Menon’s contemporary YA romances. When Dimple Met Rishi and There’s Something About Sweetie are both sweet, frothy, utterly feel-good romances that also tackle issues around family relationships. 10 Things I Hate About Pinky reads a bit younger than the earlier novels, but otherwise fits right into that mold.
Pinky Kumar is a proud activist who resents that her mom views her only as a trouble-maker. When her family visits their beach house for the summer, Pinky finds herself unfavourably compared to her ‘perfect’ cousin Dolly, and unfairly accused of mischief she didn’t commit.
Enter Samir, a friend of Pinky’s friend Ashish (from There’s Something About Sweetie). Samir is everything Pinky’s parents want her to be — an aspiring lawyer who lives his life by the rules, plans out his daily schedule, and writes out lists for everything. When Samir’s summer internship falls through, Pinky invites him over to be her fake boyfriend. In exchange, Samir gets the opportunity to impress Pinky’s mom, a high-powered corporate attorney, and possibly gain himself an internship at the mom’s firm for the fall. Samir and Pinky are polar opposites personality-wise, but as they get to know each other better, sparks fly, and lots and lots of tender, fluffy, adorable feelings develop.
I love how Pinky and Samir’s relationship helps them both grow and confront their own personal shortcomings. For example, even though a lot of Pinky’s activism is for good causes, Samir rightly points out that she tends to present them to her parents in a very combative way, and that she doesn’t bother to tell them about all the thought and preparation she puts in before making a decision to take up a cause. Pinky’s parents therefore see her as a troublemaker not just because of their own biases about some of her choices, but also because Pinky herself seems to like presenting that persona. On the flip side, Pinky prompts Samir to question why list-making is so important to him, and how much his mom’s cancer journey has affected his approach to life.
Samir is a sweet hero, a classic Sandhya Menon cinnamon roll type who is oh-so-easy to fall in love with. He has his flaws as well, and I like how his relationship with Pinky forces him to examine why list-making is so important to him. I also love the background information about his mom, and how her cancer journey affected their relationship. I do wish Samir’s relationship with his mom was explored more — at the start of the book, Pinky called his mom overprotective, but we didn’t really get to see any of that develop later on. Samir makes a big life decision at the end of the book that he talks to his mom about, but that conversation takes place off-screen, and so I wish we’d seen a bit more of that relationship on the page.
And Pinky is a wonderfully complex, complicated heroine. I love that a lot of her activism in the novel is around animal welfare (a cause I personally care about), and I especially love that her activism is less about ‘doing the right thing’, and more about caring for particular persons/creatures. In one of my favourite plot threads, Pinky rescues a possum on the road whom she calls Drama Queen (DQ for short). DQ has an unfortunate tendency to play dead at the slightest hint of a threat, and Pinky worries this will make her vulnerable to predators. I love that despite the impulsiveness of the initial rescue, Pinky does due diligence in researching possum care, to give DQ the best care possible.
Later on, Pinky’s big cause is the butterfly habitat in the town, which is scheduled to be demolished to make space for a condo. I love that Pinky’s reason for fighting for the habitat is that she and her family have had lots of good memories there, and she wants to preserve those memories because of the contentious relationship she now has with her parents.
I also like that Pinky joins the protest already being organized by the town residents, rather than starting her own. Because her family visits the area only in the summer, I couldn’t help feeling that the town residents have more at stake than she does with the butterfly habitat issue. I’ve read YA books where teens from wealthy families save a town while the year-round residents are mostly passive, so I love that Menon centres a town resident (a Black lesbian) as the leader of the protest, with Pinky supporting her efforts.
Mostly, I love that Pinky, thanks in part to her brainstorming with Samir, comes up with a reasonable alternative to destroying the butterfly habitat. Instead of just saying the condo developers must leave completely, she proposes a compromise that’ll protect the butterfly habitant while also keeping the jobs and the homes that the condo development would create. Her proposed solution is simple, elegant, and quite frankly, much more mature than I may have come up with as an adult, never mind at her age.
I really love the subplot about Pinky and her mom, in particular how they learn to understand each other better over the course of the novel. I wish the story of the mom had been developed a bit more gradually and deeply, as I found her a really interesting character and I thought the resolution of their conflict felt abrupt.
Overall, 10 Things I Hate About Pinky is a fun, feel-good teen read, and Pinky and Samir are sweet characters who are adorable together.
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for an e-galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.