If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
Published: August 20th 2013 by Alqonquin Young Readers
Source: ARC from publisher
Synopsis (Goodreads): In this stunning debut, a young Iranian American writer pulls back the curtain on one of the most hidden corners of a much-talked-about culture.
Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.
So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin’s parents announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.
Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution. In Iran, homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman’s body is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. As a man, Sahar could be the one to marry Nasrin. Sahar will never be able to love the one she wants, in the body she wants to be loved in, without risking her life. Is saving her love worth sacrificing her true self?
My thoughts: I finished If You Could Be Mine on a plane, and the flight attendant noticed me crying and said, “that must be a really good book.” My response was: “You have no idea.” Then I explained the heartbreaking story of a girl in love with her best friend, desperately trying to find a way for them to be together against all odds, and she was disappointed it was not yet available to purchase because she was intrigued by the story.
If You Could Be Mine is heartbreaking, which we honestly don’t get enough of in young adult literature, in my opinion. I always favor the bittersweet endings over the happily ever afters, so I was predisposed to enjoy this book, and it met all of my expectations.
Not only were Nasrin and Sahar fully realized characters that jumped off the page, I felt I got to know each of the supporting characters in their own way. Each one seemed a real person, with his or her own desires and flaws; none were inserted just to serve the plot. I connected with every character, from Sahar’s dad and cousin to Nasrin’s mother to the trans* characters.
Farizan managed to capture perfectly both the longing and the hopelessness of Sahar’s situation. Her love is a crime and her lover is not willing to sacrifice anything to be with her. Yet she is so passionately in love, Sahar will consider any option to be with Nasrin.
I have no experience with the LBGTQ community of Iran, but through Farizan’s story I felt like I gained a lot of insight. We still have so few queer titles in general, let alone those that consider the themes of coming out from a global perspective. If You Could Be Mine is a unique story, and deserves notice simply for that. Luckily, it’s also well-written and engrossing.
The plot is predictable, but well paced. While I wasn’t surprised by the developments and the bittersweet ending, I was engrossed in the story and found it difficult to put down.
Sahar’s is painfully naive; she doesn’t acknowledge even to herself how hopeless or impossible her situation is. Her voice read as authentically teen. She wasn’t overly self-aware or embarrassingly articulate, as I’ve found some queer YA characters to be.
I highly recommend this achingly beautiful story of forbidden love. It’s perfect for readers who enjoy highly emotional stories and a first person narrator they can connect with, even if they don’t relate to her.
Ingrid @ The Magpie Librarian: “It’s odd to say that I’m excited about a book that caused me this much heartache, but it’s true. If You Could Be Mine puts LGBTQ rights in a global perspective for teen readers. I’m certain it deserves a place in your library.”
The Compulsive Reader: “Sara Farizan’s If You Could Be Mine is an intense book, full of equal parts danger and love. Each sentence is emotionally loaded and tantalizing, and Farizan writes so convincingly about an intense love that must be hidden in a dangerous environment. The relationship between the two girls isn’t always very even, and Sahar struggles with seeing the flaws in her romance even as she desperately works to save it. Farizan does an excellent job at discussing the difference between being gay and transsexual, addressing important issues about body image and gender, and how they factor into sexuality.”