Title: The Beauty of the Moment
Author: Tanaz Bhathena
Publisher: Penguin Teen
Publication Date: February 26, 2019
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Susan is the new girl — she’s sharp and driven, and strives to meet her parents’ expectations of excellence. Malcolm is the bad boy — he started raising hell at age fifteen, after his mom died of cancer, and has had a reputation ever since. Susan hasn’t told anyone, but she wants to be an artist. Malcolm doesn’t know what he wants — until he meets her. Love is messy and families are messier, but in spite of their burdens, Susan and Malcolm fall for each other. The ways they drift apart and come back together are testaments to family, culture, and being true to who you are.
My mother talks about love in extremes. A Bollywood sort of romance, with a hero and heroine, villainous parents, and a coterie of smart-mouthed siblings. That these love stories, repeated film after film, are strikingly similar to her own is pure coincidence.
“Do you know I ran away to get married?” Amma declared once, to a group of my awestruck cousins in India over a Skype call. “My poor parents nearly had a heart attack!”
With the air for drama that storytellers and convincing liars have perfected, she opened her brown eyes wide, tossed her long black braid behind her, and played with the edge of her cotton sari, increasing the tension in the moment. Seconds later, she segued into the climax that led to her perfect Ever After as a doctor’s wife in the Arabian Gulf.
“First India. Then Saudi Arabia. And now you are in Canada,” one of my father’s sisters said, her smile not quite hiding the envy in her eyes.
Amma smiled in response. Her hand went to the minnu that my father had fastened around her neck on their wedding day—a delicate gold pendant in the shape of a leaf, seven gold beads forming a cross at its center. It was a necklace she never took off—one that told the world that she was married. Loved.
She did not tell my aunts about the hours she spends waiting next to her laptop, signed in to Skype for the call that my father makes once each afternoon from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The call that he sometimes forgets about completely. She did not tell them about the anger, the fights, the despair—the gray, messy side of her love that gets turned off by the very mention of my father, that still blames me for the distance between them.
The Beauty of the Moment reminded me of books like When Dimple Met Rishi, Emergency Contact, or American Panda. I LOVED it! Susan has newly immigrated to Canada with her mother. She’s not sure of her new school and adjusting to a new culture and a new city is a struggle. She begins to feel distance from her home, but doesn’t feel like she really fits in at her new school. She’s open to new experiences and meeting new people, but she’s not sure what her place is going to be.
Malcolm has rebelled against his family and what his teachers expect of him. Losing his mom at a young age changed him and the way he relates to those around him. His relationship with his father is tenuous at best. He’s going nowhere and he’s lost his desire to put any effort in. When he meets Susan, everything begins to change for him.
This story is sweet and the characters are absolutely lovely. The story explores themes of friendship, family, and first love. It moves through the experience of immigration and cultural difference. The characters experience racism and struggle against prejudice. Really though, they are all experiencing and living their lives as regular Canadian teenagers, just trying to find themselves without embarrassing themselves too badly. Susan and Malcolm form an unlikely union and from that, they both begin to blossom in ways they never imagined. Ultimately, this is a story of growth and self-discovery. It’s one I would highly recommend.