Fourteen-year-old Iranian-American Parvin Mohammadi sets out to win the ultimate date to homecoming in this heartfelt and outright hilarious debut. Parvin Mohammadi has just been dumped--only days after receiving official girlfriend status. Not only is she heartbroken, she's humiliated. Enter high school heartthrob Matty Fumero, who just might be the smoking-hot cure to all her boy problems. If Parvin can get Matty to ask her to Homecoming, she's positive it will prove to herself and her ex that she's girlfriend material after all. There's just one problem: Matty is definitely too cool for bassoon-playing, frizzy-haired, Cheeto-eating Parvin. Since being herself hasn't worked for her in the past (see aforementioned dumping), she decides to start acting like the women in her favorite rom-coms. Those women aren't loud, they certainly don't cackle when they laugh, and they smile much more than they talk. But Parvin discovers that being a rom-com dream girl is much harder than it looks. Also hard? The parent-mandated Farsi lessons. A confusing friendship with a boy who's definitely not supposed to like her. And hardest of all, the ramifications of the Muslim ban on her family in Iran. Suddenly, being herself has never been more important. Olivia Abtahi's debut is as hilarious as it is heartfelt--a delightful tale where, amid the turmoil of high school friendships and crushes, being yourself is always the perfect way to be.
Parvin begins to reevaluate who she is and what she knows about romance from rom-coms. When Wesley soon has another girlfriend that he is taking to the Homecoming dance, Parvin decides that she will get a new boyfriend to take to Homecoming to make Wesley jealous. She will use the example of rom-coms to snag this new guy with a plan to be quieter, not talk much, and remove as much hair from her body as possible - even if her BFFs, Ruth and Fabian question the value of these examples.
As she works toward her goal, she also deals with the difficulties of high school, including picking up a new instrument (bassoon), making videos for class, and learning Farsi in the advanced class on Sundays. As a half-Iranian, her parents think it's important that she learns, and luckily, the class gives her a tutor, a sophomore named Amir. As Parvin spends time with him and works on her plans to snag a guy (hopefully the cute Matty) for the dance, she must evaluate what is important to her and what she is willing to lose in her rom-com goals.
What I loved: Parvin is heartfelt, delightful, and trying to find her way in the world. She is such a compelling character and so easy to instantly fall in love with. Her story really shines through the book, and I loved reading it. Other characters were equally as compelling, including her Ameh Sara whom she frequently turns to for advice over Skype, her BFFs who each have their own charming personalities, and her father, who is loving and thoughtfully answers her questions about life. This book actually had me laughing out loud in several places, and Parvin's story is told with a hefty and delightful dose of humor throughout.
There is also some power in having a YA book with a young high schooler leading the way - this is a group that does not get much attention, and the book would definitely appeal to older middle grade readers as well as YA readers for this reason.
The themes throughout were really strong as well. There is great LGBT inclusion and racial/ethnic diversity. From this, there are important themes about inclusion and microaggressions, including comments about people's food and questions about where they are "really from." Although they are background themes, their inclusion can be thought-provoking and definitely increases awareness. Adding to that, Parvin is half-Iranian, and this comes with its own challenges as she struggles to feel fully accepted by those who are full Iranian and by white people. There are also challenges in terms of appearance that her white mother cannot always anticipate, and her parents do a great job of finding other ways to support her (such as with her Ameh Sara).
Immigration is another theme, and the book shows some of the impact of the Muslim ban and the way that people who come from Muslim countries have been treated. The challenges around immigration, visas, and ICE, which can be unnecessarily cruel. Romance is another theme (lightly) with the pressures on young girls to look like the magazines and act a certain way, and I loved that the book ultimately has a message of being true to yourself and the importance of surrounding yourself with people who love you for who you are. The way this all came together was really excellent.
Final verdict: With compelling characters, delightful comedy, and thought-provoking themes, PERFECTLY PARVIN is a charming YA contemporary read that I highly recommend picking up. This book would be perfect for people who enjoyed WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI, TO ALL THE BOYS I'VE LOVED BEFORE, and MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE.