‘Problems? Confusions? Contradictions? I got them all and if you’ve got them, then FLAUNT them is my motto.’ Meet Harjinder (aka Hari-jan): ‘A’ level student, supermarket worker and desperate journalist. Feisty and impulsive, Hari-jan can’t refuse a dare and to make matters worse has fallen in love with the wrong boy.
Her best friend Ghazala has taken to wearing the hijab and mentoring racists.
Can Hari-jan battle through the hurdles and win her man?
Can Ghazala work out how to do Good in her own way?
A sparkling, coming-of-age novel about life, love and friendship.
Beauty and the Beast follows the antics of feisty Asian teenager Harjinder (or Hari-Jan as she likes to be called…) as she navigates life in England surrounded by her interesting yet slightly crazy family and friends.
Things start to kick off for Hari-Jan when she finds herself agreeing to take part in a bet. Not just any old bet you understand…but a bet as to whether she can win the affections of Suresh Richardson, an insufferably good-looking know it all who edits the school magazine. Sounds simple, right? Well, considering the girl making the bet against Hari-Jan appears to be Suresh’s own girlfriend things aren’t going to be as simple as they seem.
I loved reading this vibrant, funny and wise story about Hari-Jan trying to figure out who she is and where she’s going in life whilst living in Britain and constantly coming up against restraints. Her parents are extremely protective of her and long for her to be more traditional. Suresh is not only annoying and impossible to please, dismissing Hari-Jan’s work that she submits to the magazine, but he is ridiculously handsome too. When faced with losing a bet AND falling a little bit in love, what’s a girl to do? As well as pleasing her parents and Suresh, Hari-Jan also has school life to navigate and her rather excitable cousin, Binny, and her best friend, Gazzy, to deal with. However, she pulls it off like a pro (a pro wearing Doc Martins, incidentally.)
One of the things I enjoyed most about Beauty and the Beast is how Ravinder Randhawa weaves plenty of Indian culture into the story. I feel as though I learnt a fair bit from reading this, not only about what life is like for an Asian teen growing up in Britain, but also about some of the traditions and formalities of Indian life. There’s a glossary included in the back, which I regularly referred to as I picked up new words along the way. If you’re not in to constantly referencing and looking up words then just bear this in mind when you pick up this book as I know that not everybody enjoys having to do this. It’s not something I am normally a fan of, but I felt that it didn’t interrupt the flow of the story and it helped to in turn make the whole thing more authentic.
The range of characters were likeable and believable, especially the wonderful Hari-Jan. She’s the kind of girl you would like fighting your corner and whilst she might not always think before she speaks, she is someone who’s not afraid to stand up for what they believe in and I couldn’t help but love her for this.
Then you have Suresh. He can be condescending and judgemental – not necessarily making him an ideal match for Hari-Jan, but that’s all part of the fun. The pair seems to bounce off one another and Ravinder has created a brilliant chemistry between the two.
I also liked the friendship between Ghazala (Gazzy) and Hari-Jan. Like any real life friendship it wasn’t always sweetness and light. They often leave each other exasperated and don’t always see eye to eye; but once again that’s the beauty of their relationship and what makes it so enjoyable to read about.
Beauty and the Beast is a brilliant concept and a sharp, smart YA novel that packs a punch. If you like strong lead characters and a bit of will-they-won’t-they old school romance then this is an ideal read for you. It pretty much covers everything a good YA book should do – friendship, family, school, romance and plenty of drama.
A huge thank you to Faye Rogers for sending me a copy of Beauty and the Beast to read and review. ♥
Ravinder Randhawa is the acclaimed author of the novels Beauty and the Beast (YA), A Wicked Old Woman, The Tiger’s Smile and the short story collection Dynamite. She’s currently working on a trilogy: The Fire-Magician. Ravinder was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Toynbee Hall, Queen Mary’s University, the University of London, and founded the Asian Women Writer’s Collective.
Ravinder was born in India, grew up in leafy Warwickshire, now lives in London and agrees with Samuel Johnson’s saying (though of course, in a gender non-specific way) ‘…if a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.’ Loves good coffee and really good thrillers.