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Written in the Stars Hardcover – March 24, 2015

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up—Naila is a Pakistani American high school senior. As the story opens, her greatest trouble is the risk of going to the prom with her high school sweetheart against the wishes of her protective and conservative parents. She does anyway, her parents find out, and their reaction is swift and extreme: the family departs immediately for Pakistan and negotiates an arranged marriage for Naila. Her impassioned struggle against the constraints of an arranged marriage is contrived in places, but it is a compelling story nonetheless. This is a cross-cultural eye opener; since Naila had never left the US until she was 18, her first-person account resonates in its explanations of the rituals, especially how they would look and feel from an American point of view. Yet the setting is pure Pakistani, with culturally rich descriptions of Naila's extended family, their cuisine, and strongly held beliefs. The prose is simple and straightforward. Although the book's hallmark is not text complexity, the spare prose is more evocative than stilted: Saeed shows rather than tells, allowing readers to imagine how Naila must feel. There is some violence and sex, both appropriate to the context and the age of the protagonist. A good choice for libraries looking to diversify their shelves.—Amy Thurow, New Glarus School District, WI

Review

“Readers will be drawn into Naila’s trials and tribulations as she navigates the reality of her new life in Pakistan and explores what inner resources she needs to change her fate. . . . Sheds light on the difficult phenomenon of forced marriage, still prevalent in many cultures around the world and often shrouded in silence.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Movingly conveys the intense cultural pressure that motivates Naila’s parents and the heartbreaking betrayal Naila feels as she is deprived of her rights, cut off from the outside world, and threatened with shame and death. Saeed includes resources for those who, like Saif’s family, wish to help real-life Nailas, in this wrenching but hopeful story.”—Publishers Weekly

“Compelling. . . . This is a cross-cultural eye opener . . . Resonates in its explanations of the rituals, especially how they would look and feel from an American point of view. Yet the setting is pure Pakistani, with culturally rich descriptions of Naila’s extended family, their cuisine, and strongly held beliefs. . . . Evocative.”—School Library Journal

“Naila’s harrowing story is compellingly told. . . . Stirring, haunting, and ultimately hopeful.”Booklist

Saeed’s portrayal of a bicultural young woman is spot on in terms of both Naila’s expectations of eventual autonomy and her confusion over what is happening to her; she can’t imagine that her life is completely out of her own control. . . . An author’s note explains that while her own ‘semiarranged’ marriage was a success, she wrote the book to draw attention to the ‘silent epidemic’ of forced marriage; through Naila’s ordeal, readers will certainly have their eyes opened to how someone can be forced to marry against her will.”—The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books


author endorsements

“This suspenseful story about a young woman trapped in a marriage she doesn’t want will make your heart ache. I couldn’t put it down.”—Suzanne Fisher Staples, author of Newbery Honor winner Shabanu

“In this beautiful debut novel, Saeed offers a look inside the heartbreaking realities of a young woman caught between her American upbringing and her parents’ traditional views on love and marriage. This is a page-turner about love, culture, family—and the perilous journey into womanhood worldwide. I couldn’t put it down.”—Meg Medina, author of Pura Belpré Author Award winner Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass

“Written in the Stars is a wonderfully complex love story unlike any you’ve read before. Saeed has given a novel that is both entertaining and important.”—Matt de la Peña, author of Pura Belpré Author Honor winner The Living
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books (March 24, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399171703
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399171703
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #97,434 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Aisha Saeed (aishasaeed.com) is a Pakistani American writer, teacher, and attorney. Her writings have appeared in publications including The Orlando Sentinel, Muslim Girl magazine, and BlogHer. As one of the founding members of the much talked about We Need Diverse Books Campaign, she is helping to change the conversation about diversity in literature. She is also a contributing author to the highly acclaimed Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women, which features the story of her own (happily) arranged marriage. Aisha lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and sons.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Review also posted at Young Adult Hollywood.

“You can choose what you want to be when you grow up, the types of shoes you want to buy, how long you want your hair to be. But your husband, that’s different. We choose your husband for you. You understand that, right?” I’ve heard this more times than I can count. The first time we had this conversation was seven years ago, when I was ten.

“What if I find him first?” I asked then.

“That’s not how it’s done,” she had said. “Just because we live in a different place doesn’t change how things should be.”

I chose that particular quote because these states of things do happen in real life. Some women are fortunate enough to find themselves happy and contented with the arranged they were set into, but how about those women who had their voice, life and freedom taken away from them? This is that book.

If you’re looking for something fluffy. I am warning you this is not the story for you. This is a common tale that goes unwritten and unspoken. Something that thousands of women and young girls find themselves facing everyday. The terror, anguish and loneliness. It’s extremely rare to find books that handle this sensitive issue with so much heart and realism.

Saeed gracefully introduced us to the Pakistani culture, with its fine traditions, wonderful food, picturesque lands and colorful dresses. Written in the Stars also explore the struggle of living in America while connecting with your roots and trying to make a room for yourself to grow on your own.

It was relatively easy to get lost in this book, before I even knew it, it was all over. It’s fast paced. I ache everywhere.

I only have two conclusion after I finished reading Written in the Stars.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dahlia Adler on March 24, 2015
Format: Hardcover
God, this book - talk about stakes and tension! It was also full of beautifully drawn setting and cultural details (and since I was the proud winner of the author's annotated ARC giveaway, I got to see which ones tied in with her own experiences, and got them a little more fleshed out, which was lovely), and so much heartbreak. I read it all in one sitting and would've happily done so if it were twice the length.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Julie @Books and Insomnia on May 24, 2015
Format: Hardcover
What an amazing debut! Written in the Stars is an important and eye-opening YA novel that should be read by people everywhere. This is easily one of my favorite 2015 reads so far.

Naila is a Pakistani-American girl trying to break out of tradition, not solely because of love but because she genuinely wants to live a life that she chose for herself. That alone won me over to Team Naila. I like how real her character is. She has dreams and ambitions but doesn't have much choice and freedom because of her conservative and controlling parents. I think at some level, a lot of us can relate to that. Maybe it's not our parents but there's almost always something that we struggle against.

Before I read Written in the Stars, I didn't know anything about Pakistan except that it's located in South Asia. And that's the thing about books set in other countries. That's the thing about books, period. They open our eyes to cultures and societies that are different from our own. They show us realities that are not known to us but experienced by people from other parts of the world. Not only is this book engaging, but it's also informative. It's just that the glossary at the end of the book would have been more helpful if I saw it sooner. The honorifics (is that the right term?) are quite confusing at first.

I love how the author painted Pakistan in this book. Aisha Saeed did not just describe the culture and the practice of arranged marriage in Pakistan, but she also successfully depicted the close family ties so typical in Asian countries. I love the family dynamics in this book. The chaos that ensues whenever relatives are visiting is totally spot-on.

The romance makes my heart all fluttery. It's sweet but not overly cheesy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Steph Sinclair on April 9, 2015
Format: Hardcover
"Life is full of sadness. It's part of being a woman. Our lives are lived for the sake of others. Our happiness is never factored in."

I'm not sure what I expected from Written in the Stars, but it definitely wasn't what I received. Naila's story of a forced, arranged marriage both shocked and horrified me to the point where I had to put the book down several times. It reminds me of how I felt while reading Little Peach, except I knew going into that one was going to be hard. I didn't expect the same level of anger and heartbreak as Naila's situation went from not-so-great to down right horrifying.

Naila is hiding a secret from her parents: She's in love with a boy named Saif and if her parents were to find out, they'd be furious. The choosing of her husband is left to up to them, with no input from her. As a result, This may see like too much involvement for some, but for Naila culture, it's a deep level of trust and love for her parents that motivates her to accept this... kinda. The problem is that since she has found someone who she's fallen in love with, she no longer wants that for herself. But the worst does happen, and Naila suddenly finds herself whisked off to Pakistan, far away from the boy she loves and a life she wants.

Written in the Stars really opened my eyes to the issue of forced marriages and arranged marriages. Before reading this novel, I personally couldn't understand why someone would be okay with any form of an arranged marriage, but Naila's story has really shown me that a forced marriage is NOT the same thing as an arranged marriage. I really loved Saeed's guest post at YA Highway, where she goes into detail about the different forms of arranged marriages and I encourage you to check it out and learn new things!
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