If You Could Be Mine

256p. Algonquin. Aug. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-61620-251-4.
Gr 9 Up—In this terrific debut novel, readers meet Sahar, a 17-year-old student who lives in Tehran. She is smart and ambitious, and she has a secret that could get her arrested or even killed; she is a lesbian and is in love with her best friend. When Nasrin's parents arrange for her to marry a young male doctor, Sahar knows that she and Nasrin will no longer be able to be with each other. When desperate Sahar meets transsexual Parveen at a party given by her gay cousin, she thinks she sees a way to be with Nasrin. In Iran, it is not illegal to be transsexual, as it is to be gay or lesbian, and the state will even pay for sex reassignment surgery because it is seen as a necessary medical procedure. Sahar pursues sex reassignment, dreaming of marrying Nasrin even though she knows in her heart that she doesn't really want to become a man. As Nasrin's wedding approaches, Sahar realizes its inevitability and must decide what she is going to do. Farizan's portrayal of Sahar and her predicament is sensitive and heartbreaking. Even less-sympathetic characters, such as Nasrin and her parents, are portrayed in a nuanced manner; in the culture Farizan depicts, the girls' fears that their romantic relationship will become known are realistic and understandable. Rich with details of life in contemporary Iran, this is a GLBTQ story that we haven't seen before in YA fiction. Highly recommended.—Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ
Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend Nasrin for years, but the girls live in Iran, where their love is illegal. That hasn’t kept them from being together, but now Nasrin has accepted a marriage proposal, and both girls must face the untenable future of their relationship. Sahar, a serious student and rule-follower, starts spending time with her cousin Ali and his underground community of criminals and misfits. Her plan, inspired by her new friends—to pretend to be transgendered (sexual reassignment, while stigmatized, is legal) in order to stay with Nasrin—is not so much the center of the story as the catalyst for the complicated social drama that unfolds. Farizan imbues characters and relationships with depth and complexity, especially when it comes to the cracks in Nasrin and Sahar’s romance that have nothing to do with restrictive laws and everything to do with Nasrin’s self-absorption. First love is the heart of the matter here; even as readers learn about an unfamiliar culture, they will recognize the universal dynamics of a struggling relationship. Meanwhile, secondary characters, especially Ali and his compatriots, provide intriguing and sometimes disturbing cameos that illuminate a variety of circumstances and individuals at the margins of society. A unique and thoughtful debut. claire e. gross

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