I’m your protagonist—Reshma Kapoor—and if you have the free time to read this book, then you’re probably nothing like me.
Reshma is a college counselor’s dream. She’s the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars. But there are plenty of perfect students in the country, and if Reshma wants to get into Stanford, and into med school after that, she needs the hook to beat them all.
What's a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. Which is exactly what Reshma does after agent Linda Montrose spots an article she wrote for Huffington Post. Linda wants to represent Reshma, and, with her new agent's help scoring a book deal, Reshma knows she’ll finally have the key to Stanford.
But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. And she's already planned the perfect ending: after struggling for three hundred pages with her own perfectionism, Reshma will learn that meaningful relationships can be more important than success—a character arc librarians and critics alike will enjoy.
Of course, even with a mastermind like Reshma in charge, things can’t always go as planned. And when the valedictorian spot begins to slip from her grasp, she’ll have to decide just how far she’ll go for that satisfying ending. (Note: It’s pretty far.)
Rating: 4 Stars
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
From the start to the end, Reshma (the protagonist) was a character that I just loved to hate. It was odd seeing the story progress because the main character was someone that, while I found them interesting, I didn't like as a person. Is that even possible? It is and you'll see that when you read about how Reshma intends to get herself a spot at Stanford.
I think the portrayal of Reshma as the perfectionist student that has to get what she wants, damned be to anyone or anything in her way, was an interesting counterpoint to others main characters. Most main characters I see nowadays have few flaws and that makes them pretty unbelievable. Reshma, as unlikeable as she is, seems like someone that you'd run into in high school. You really feel like there are people that would pull some of her stunts.
She does have a bit of sarcastic/snarky sense of humor, which I appreciated. If only she let herself feel relaxed enough to joke un-sarcastically more often, then she might have been wound so tightly.
While I had a weird love/hate relationship going on with her during this novel, the book did get me to thinking about something. Not every student is going to do to the lengths that Reshma went to to accomplish her goals (lying, being somewhat caustic as a person, etc.), but a great many of them will feel the same pressure.
It is completely insane and Rahul Kanaki did an amazing job as the author to illustrate just how insane high school is, especially the time when you're trying to get into "the right college". There's so much expected of a student, not only from themselves, but from multiple outlets that it is a wonder that more don't turn out like Reshma. Being reminded of that level of absurdity, while realistic, made me appreciate the novel more because as I get older and further away from that time in my life, I think I tend to forget about it because it was such a stressful, trying time.
There will be some parts of the novel where you might wonder why you're reading it because Reshma is definitely not the nicest person, not even close. I recommend reading to the conclusion, however, because her journey has a lot of emotion to it that will carry you along to the end and while you may not end up happy, you will have a hell of a time while getting there.
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