After Kiran Noorani’s mom died, Kiran vowed to keep her dad and sister, Amira, close. Then out of the blue, Amira announces that she’s dating someone and might move cross-country with him. Kiran is thrown.
Deen Malik is thrilled that his older brother, Faisal, has found a great girlfriend, even if it’s getting serious quickly. Maybe now their parents’ focus will shift off Deen, who feels intense pressure to be the perfect son.
When Deen and Kiran come fact to face, they silently agree to keep their past a secret. Four years ago–before Amira and Faisal met–Kiran and Deen dated. Burt Deen ghosted Kiran with no explanation. Kiran will stop at nothing to find out what happened, and Deen will do anything, even if it means sabotaging his brother’s relationship, to keep her from reaching the truth. Though the chemistry between Kiran and Deen is undeniable, can either of them take down their walls?
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Dramatic. Ardent. Messy. Three words that are bound to raise emotions; three words that best describe this story and its two main characters, Kiran and Deen, who carry each other’s memories from the past and fight for their siblings in the present. Thank you to Quill Tree Books for the opportunity to read this early!
It All Comes Back to You is a coming-of-age YA romantic drama featuring Muslim Pakistani-American characters.
For Kiran, her mother’s last words have left her with a responsibility to ‘look after them’, look after her father and elder sister, Amira. For Deen, an incident around his brother, Faisal, pushed his family to simply pack up and leave one day. And he left too, but without a goodbye. Kiran hated him for it. Deen couldn’t risk telling her the truth. The last thing they both expected was to meet as the siblings of two people in love.
Amira and Faisal are hinting at a marriage proposal and Deen is ecstatic for his brother to have found a partner, found happiness to start over. But Kiran can’t fathom getting engaged with someone you’ve known for just three months; she can’t let her sister marry a “stranger”, especially not after spotting a possible red flag around Deen’s sweet but mysterious brother. And so it commences: a constant push and pull between holding on and letting go.
Their purposes continuously conflict with each other. While Deen is motivated by guilt and a secret he wants to desperately keep under the wraps for the weight it bears, Kiran is prompted by the need to protect her sister from taking a dangerous plunge because that is exactly what it would mean for her to truly be there for Amira. Throughout the book, these opposite forces build an energy filled with grudges, mistakes, grief, happiness, and a lot of unsaid feelings.
Over three years, Kiran and Deen have created walls around themselves, have adorned masks to not let the emotional baggage make an appearance in any form, and each sequence reminds readers of this saddening tactic, bringing them closer to the characters in this process. Their equation defines the trope of online-friends-irl-rivals-to-lovers but make them exes, and this very contradicting motif endlessly entertains.
Though, an unfortunate lack of excellent chemistry disappoints in terms of romance. If one expects the above mentioned trope to pave way for more angst or charming banter, discontent waits for them. The only saving grace for their compatibility to come across the pages were the messages they had sent three years ago—carefully inserted in between chapters to showcase the past Kiran and Deen once shared. Similarly, the promotional pitches that promise a humorous undertone in this ‘rom-com’ are slightly misleading since the fun bits are often, understandably, overpowered with the individualistic emotions and none of the characters offer a funny intervention. This is not necessarily bad, just genuinely delusive to some extent.
Having said that, the author’s simplistic yet evocative writing—the very same that won my heart in I Hope You Get This Message—successfully fosters authentic character arcs and permeates themes like familial responsibilities and diaspora conjectures while faith and belief, sadness and grief, flaws and mistakes are incorporated seamlessly. It’s this writing that perfectly, almost effortlessly, juggles a present timeline of exes coming across each other after three years, a past they shared, and a parallel reality where the two are online friends.
The main characters make a mark for themselves by showcasing their vulnerabilities and messy personas, particularly through deep conversations and reminiscence. Even the side characters, especially Amira and Faisal, easily impress and it’s refreshing to see a contemporary romance highlight parents as independent characters with their own stories too—something made clear from the start itself when Kiran’s father discounts the shayaris, ghazals, and songs that compare love to fire, wine, and pain, by saying that love is all about passion; it’s “an act, a practice, a decision”. Basically, it’s easy to love every character in this story for they significantly propel the story but don’t get overshadowed by Kiran or Deen.
It All Comes Back To You uplifts the romance as it drives through a desi wedding, but that’s predictable since a desi wedding does easily enrich love with drama, gossip, food, and dance. Needless to say, the south asian culture depicted will bring a smile to every brown reader’s face. Maybe not the bits where aunties make absurd assumptions because eye-rolls are the best reaction to those. Overall, this coming-of-age romantic drama is an entertaining read that one would be glad to pick up for the right reasons.
my rating ↣ ★★★★☆
Farah Naz Rishi
Farah Naz Rishi is a Pakistani-American Muslim writer and voice actor, but in another life, she’s worked stints as a lawyer, a video game journalist, and an editorial assistant. She received her B.A. in English from Bryn Mawr College, her J.D. from Lewis & Clark Law School, and her love of weaving stories from the Odyssey Writing Workshop. When she’s not writing, she’s probably hanging outwith video game characters.
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This post is written for a promotional blog tour hosted by TBR & Beyond Book Tours but everything stated in the post is solely my opinion and recommendation, and the giveaway is in no way sponsored by me. Also, I’m in no place to give detailed comments on the representation of the religion or the belief of characters in this book so please pay heed to the ownvoices reviews for this representation above mine.