More Than Just A Pretty Face by Syed M. Masood

Disclaimer: I received the e-arc and arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: More Than Just A Pretty Face

Author: Syed M. Masood

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 2/5

Diversity: Muslim/Desi reps!

Recommended For…: contemporary, muslim/desi books, romance

Publication Date: August 4, 2020

Genre: YA Contemporary

Recommended Age: 16+ (language, sexual content, non consensual filming of sex TW, emotional abuse TW, slightly racist moments)

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Pages: 352

Synopsis: Danyal Jilani doesn’t lack confidence. He may not be the smartest guy in the room, but he’s funny, gorgeous, and going to make a great chef one day. His father doesn’t approve of his career choice, but that hardly matters. What does matter is the opinion of Danyal’s longtime crush, the perfect-in-all-ways Kaval, and her family, who consider him a less than ideal arranged marriage prospect.

When Danyal gets selected for Renaissance Man–a school-wide academic championship–it’s the perfect opportunity to show everyone he’s smarter than they think. He recruits the brilliant, totally-uninterested-in-him Bisma to help with the competition, but the more time Danyal spends with her…the more he learns from her…the more he cooks for her…the more he realizes that happiness may be staring him right in his pretty face.

Review: For the most part I enjoyed the story of this book. It had some great moments, like building up Bisma’s and Danyal’s relationship (very well done!) and I loved learning some more about Desi/Muslim culture and religion. I also thought the author did well with Bisma’s character and she didn’t feel badly written at all. She’s a character I’ll remember for the longest time, not only for her quiet strength, but for her intelligence and kindness as well.

However, I had a lot of issues with the book that I didn’t wish I had. I felt that the book made a lot of comments about girl’s appearance. I understand that the POV is a young man in high school, but it felt like he was stereotyped into an 80’s version of a high school guy who’s girl crazy. The mother’s comments on sex appeal in reference to how Danyal views them and how she condoned it was cringy and creepy. She said Bisma was “not hot” and I don’t think any mother should be commenting on the hotness of a young girl. It was kinda misogynic how, not only the mother, but all of the female characters aside had a “women hating on women” mentality. There were also comments about the rep that I didn’t feel should be in the book. Danyal says at one point all Desi’s are shallow and says they only judge on looks. There is also a very religious Muslim character and he’s written to be hated on for his devotedness. The Islamic religion is very beautiful and the hatred on the character can be misconstrued to a more naïve reader. Many other reviewers also pointed out problems with the rules of romance and how the book didn’t follow them and didn’t state them to the full extent.

Along with those problems I also had some smaller issues of the text in terms of racism and abusive content. The father was severely written and it wasn’t that well resolved by the end of the book. The father is very emotionally abusive to Danyal to the point he says Danyal can’t be his son because Danyal is a failure. That’s very gut wrenching and as someone who faced some of that in her childhood, it’s very distressing to read. There’s a racist remark made by the teacher towards Danyal in regards to “where he comes from”, and then the teacher is written as this cool teacher that’s on Danyal’s side and it’s weird.

Verdict: For the most part, the book seems to be ok, but there are a lot of badly written moments. I think the book should have had a round or two with sensitivity readers to help smooth out the roughness of this book.

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