This one had been on my TBR list long before it popped up as a discussion book in my intercultural connections class. For those of you who pay attention to my reading habits, I tend not to read book synopses before I pick up a book. I knew it was about lesbians, but I didn’t know it was set in Tehran. What led me to put this one on my list in the first place was all the buzz it got after a conference (BEA or ALA, I can’t remember which). When it popped up on both my class required reading and YALSA’s Amazing Audiobooks list, that just gave me the push I needed to pick it up.
If You Could Be Mine is about Sahar, a young Iranian woman in love with her best friend, Nasrin. Homosexuality is dangerous in Iran, and the two have to keep their relationship secret. When Nasrin’s parents arrange a marriage for her, Sahar begins to think she’d rather become a man than watch Nasrin marry someone else.
I’ve skimmed some other reviews or had people who read this tell me they didn’t enjoy it as much as they thought they would. Jennifer and I were discussing it one day, and we came to the conclusion that listening to the audio might have made a huge difference for us. So, I just wanted to go ahead and mention that this a review of the audiobook. One of the reasons I think the audiobook works so well is that this is a first person narrative from Sahar’s point of view. When listening, it just felt like Sahar was talking to me, telling me her story. It really connected me to her story. Her voice was relatable and accessible, even though I’ve never gone through any of the things she’s going through.
Nasrin was pretty hard to like, and I loved this. We had a pretty good discussion about this in our class. Most of the class didn’t like Nasrin; I didn’t either, but I like that I didn’t like her. She was so realistic. She was selfish and immature. She made decisions that were the easiest for her, even if they wouldn’t make her happy in the long run. She rarely considered Sahar’s feelings and how her marriage would affect her. That’s real, though. I can see any 16-year-old girl anywhere acting that way. I really appreciated how authentic that felt. Our class actually had a Skype session with Sara Farizan, and we discussed Nasrin a bit. I got the same sort of impression from her about Nasrin. Her feelings and actions and decisions are all common among teenagers and that makes her an authentic character.
There are a couple of things I’ll agree with other reviewers on. The pacing and crafting felt a little off. It’s hard to put my finger on. I can’t really explain my feelings on the pacing. It just felt… off somehow. I think that’s one aspect that could have been crafted a little better. Some of it felt a little rushed. I think with a little more attention to that, it might have been near flawless. I do know, after the Skype session with Sara Farizan, that this was a bit of a passion project that she didn’t originally intend to publish. It was a story she didn’t think anyone would be interested in reading. There are people in Iran who go through similar things because of the laws about homosexuality, so I think it’s an important story to tell. Plus, that touch of desperate teenage love is relatable for anyone. We’ve all been there, right?
The audio narration was fantastic. I have absolutely no complaints. Negin Farsad really became Sahar for me. The emotional connection, the syntax, the immersion in the story: it was all there. It just a well read and well produced audiobook, and it most definitely deserves to be on the Amazing Audiobooks list. I highly recommend experiencing this one on audio.
By the way, Sara Farizan is awesome and hilarious. She seems like she would be a blast to hang out with, and I will probably read every book she ever writes now. I know the next one is going to be much lighter than this one.