Wednesday, Sep 18, 2019 | Last Update : 04:06 AM IST

Predictable teen romance shaped by emigration, loss

THE ASIAN AGE. | RACHNA CHHABRIA
Published : May 20, 2019, 6:35 am IST
Updated : May 20, 2019, 6:35 am IST

The reason being Susan’s parents want to give her better chances in life which studying and living in Canada will provide their only child.

The Beauty of the Moment By Tanaz Bhathena Penguin, Rs 299
 The Beauty of the Moment By Tanaz Bhathena Penguin, Rs 299

Tanaz Bhathena’s The Beauty of the Moment is another young adult novel, like her previous book, A Girl Like That. I must admit that her first book was way better than this one. It had a freshness to it, there was a novelty factor.

Seventeen-year-old Susan Thomas and her mother Aruna arrive in Mississauga in Canada from Jeddah. Her father whom she calls Appa settles them into a condo before flying back to Jeddah where he is a doctor. The reason being Susan’s parents want to give her better chances in life which studying and living in Canada will provide their only child.

Susan joins the twelfth grade of Arthur Eldridge school, though she finds most of the subjects: Calculus, English, Art, easy, its Physics that messes up her perfect scores.

In school Susan meets Malcolm Vakil (she had seen him in her building when he came to visit his best friend Ahmed). Malcolm of the spiked hair, baggy jeans fame, with skin the same shade of brown as Susan’s, a silver chain around his neck, is quite the hell-raiser. As Susan and Malcolm are classmates, infact Susan sits one row ahead of him, slowly an awkward friendship blossoms and soon the two teens fall in love with plenty of stolen kisses in their school’s deserted corridors.

Somehow all these books have made it mandatory for the hero read protagonist to have two best friends, the stork like skinny class clown Steve Patel and the tall and muscular boy, with a face that is a girl magnet Ahmed Sharif, and ofcourse there is the beautiful and sexy Godafrin aka Afrin Irani, Malcolm’s ex-girlfriend trying her best to make her ex-boyfriend break up with his current girlfriend. From inviting Susan to a party, getting her drunk, shooting a video when she is throwing up in the lawn, uploading it on YouTube, Afrin does it all.

The story though decently written, runs the predictable course, girl and boy meet, fall in love, each helps the other fight their personal fears and tackle their troubling issues, incase of Susan she wants to become an artist, not major in Science or Engineering which her parents on the brink of a separation want her to do, she is also unable to ace her driving classes, Susan helps Malcolm in her own way, by showing him a mirror where his behavior with his father who he calls old man and their English teacher are concerned. Ever since Malcolm’s father cheated on his first wife (Malcolm’s late mother) deserting her when she was suffering from cancer, beating up fifteen-year-old Malcolm, he hates his father.

There is the typical misunderstanding between the two lovers, courtesy the shrewd ex. The lovers separate but are thrown together when sassy Mahtab, Malcolm’s younger sister along with her boyfriend Ronny Mehta organises the Benefit Concert for Syrian Refugees.

At times especially when Malcolm and Susan are secretly kissing each other I feel I’m in the midst of a Karan Johar school movie, but luckily for me the school in Bhathena’s book isn’t there for name’s sake. The students actually study! Thank god for that, else I wouldn’t have been able to review the book at all.

The book would have worked better if it was around fifty pages shorter. Though the story doesn't offer much by way of a plot, doesn’t say anything new and is a bit too long, it’s still  readable, thanks largely to the two affable main characters who narrate the story in alternate chapters, and their endearing relationships: Susan’s friendship with her bestie Alisha in Jeddah with whom she Skypes, reminded me of my friendship with my bestie, and Malcolm’s easy banter with his sister is quite heart-warming, these tilted the scales in the book’s favour. The archetypical clever girl with the bad boy, the jealous ex-girlfriend, goofy friends who tease the male character and supportive girl friends who rally around a heart-broken female character. You have read about it all earlier, right?

Rachna Chhabria is a Bengaluru based children's author and a freelance writer. Her latest book Festival Stories Through The Year (Harper Collins Children’s Books) has made her fall in love with our festivals, rituals and food.

Tags: the beauty of the moment