Sleepless in Dubai
By: Sajni Patel
Expected Publication: October 24, 2023 by Amulet Books
Genre: Young Adult, Romance
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss (Thank you!!)
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Goodreads description--From the author of My Sister's Big Fat Indian Wedding comes this hilarious, smart, and swoon-worthy rom-com about two teens traveling to Dubai for Diwali
In this hate-to-love teen rom-com from the author of My Sister's Big Fat Indian Wedding, Nikki, an aspiring photographer, accompanies her family on a trip to Dubai to celebrate the five days of Diwali in style. It should be the trip of a lifetime, if Yash, the boy next door--with whom Nikki has a rocky history--weren't on board. Oblivious to the tension, Nikki's matchmaking family encourages Nikki to get better acquainted with Yash. Turns out a lot can change on a 12-hour flight beyond just continents. But can betrayals and conflicting ambitions be set aside long enough for the two teens to discover the true meaning of the Festival of Lights?
I wrongly assumed, based on the title, this book would be a retelling of Sleepless in Seattle. Obviously, the book description should have told me all I needed to know, but my brain is quite overloaded these days, and I couldn't remember much about the description. Now that I go back and re-read the description, I can say that this is one time that it is all wrong or at least twisted to mislead.
Nikki and Yash have history. They have been best friends since diapers. Their moms were pregnant at the same time. They have been neighbors, and their parents have been best friends their whole lives. Nikki and Yash don't need to get acquainted...they need to get RE-acquainted after they fought over the summer. The gist is that Nikki started sneaking out and going to clubs. Yash was worried about her. They had a fight, and Nikki spelled out what was happening. Her parents overheard and asked them to repeat what was just said. Yash did just that. Which Nikki saw as a betrayal, and then in all self-admitted-pettiness betrayed Yash, also, by spilling the beans about some car damage he did while driving or something. Anyway, these two were former best friends who did everything together. But they've spent the entire summer not speaking.
Sleepless in Dubai starts off with Nikki setting up the perfect photograph she's been trying to get to submit for an internship. Yash runs over her camera, which is in the road for the shot she wanted. And we have another major conflict between these two. Their families are traveling together to Dubai for the Diwali festival to see some of Nikki's mother's family. And both sets of parents are pushing these two kids to make up. There may or may not be hints of matchmaking on the parents' parts, but romance doesn't really appear to be at the heart of their efforts since everyone besides Nikki's younger sister, Lily, seems surprised when it eventually heads in that direction.
I felt like Sleepless in Dubai was completely predictable. But I also felt like there's no way that Sajni Patel thought she was writing some epic plot twister that readers wouldn't pick up on. The clues were so glaringly obvious on all fronts that I can't believe anyone would have missed them. But I didn't mind it one single bit.
Nikki is indeed petty. She got hurt, and she sought to retaliate. It's human nature, but it isn't true love. She had a lot of growing up to do over the course of their trip and book. I liked that Yash was much more mature. He just wanted to talk to Nikki, and he seemed to handle all of his hurt and pain in a responsible way by turning to art. He was definitely the more mature of these two kiddos.
Of course, there was so much of the cultural aspects that I am clueless about. So I couldn't imagine what the food they were eating was like or the clothes they were wearing exactly. Or even the music they might hear or things they would smell. It would have been nice to have that knowledge, but that didn't stop me from knowing what it tastes like to eat a delicious meal, to wear clothes I feel nice in, to celebrate and fellowship with friends, family, and even new people. I've enjoyed vacations where the senses were overloaded. And I could easily connect to the meaning explained behind Diwali of releasing negativity and holding fast to the light and positivity that we want in our lives, refocusing on the important things and leaving behind the things that drag us down. And most of all, I can connect to the human emotions of hurt, betrayal, forgiveness, hope, love, and joy.
-"The point is to start fresh, to be clean and cleansed. Outer appearances are only so much. Our inner self has to mirror our outer self; otherwise, what is the point? May we all unload negative energy and the darkness that perpetually tries to consume us."
Sleepless in Dubai was nothing like I was picturing in a good way. I didn't want to put it down. I was enjoying the vacation these two families went on vicariously. And I enjoyed every second of Nikki and Yash reconnecting and discovering that their relationship has evolved into more. It was just what I needed, and I am not surprised since this makes my fourth Sajni Patel read. Sleepless in Dubai gets 4.5 Stars. I couldn't give it 5 because of the glaringly obvious plot "twists". Have you read Sleepless in Dubai? What did you think? Let me know!