A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena
A timeless exploration of high-stakes romance, self-discovery, and the lengths we go to love and be loved.
Sixteen-year-old Zarin Wadia is many things: a bright and vivacious student, an orphan, a risk taker. She’s also the kind of girl that parents warn their kids to stay away from: a troublemaker whose many romances are the subject of endless gossip at school. You don’t want to get involved with a girl like that, they say. So how is it that eighteen-year-old Porus Dumasia has only ever had eyes for her? And how did Zarin and Porus end up dead in a car together, crashed on the side of a highway in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia? When the religious police arrive on the scene, everything everyone thought they knew about Zarin is questioned. And as her story is pieced together, told through multiple perspectives, it becomes clear that she was far more than just a girl like that.
I can’t remember the exact reason why this book caught my eye but it had been a preorder that ended up in my too big pending to be read book list. And I felt like reading it and wow.
A Girl Like That packs a punch and a half. Seriously, this was a very powerful read.
We start with Zarin and Porius hovering over the car accident that has cost them their lives. I’ve only really ever seen this type of narrative of the spirit/soul witnessing something happening or that happened to their body and helping with the narrative work well once (in Gayle Foreman’s books) but it works here too.
That first chapter of the accident and the scene and just setting up the key players and our main cast of zarin and Porus gives you a glimpse into them and who they are. We then get a few points of view telling us how they either see Zarin, why they see her that way, or of Zarin or Porus telling us about hoe they came to be in the car that night.
For a very long time I had a theory about the car accident and kinda didn’t want to be right, and I weasn’t, which made this even better. Anyway, it is interesting to see Zarin trying hard to make herself be what she needs to be, but at the same time rebelling and wanting to be herself, to not ahve to hide so many things. She finds that letting others have an opinion of her gives her space to breathe, they are already judging her, so it means they pry less, they assume more and she has a little bit more freedom.
Because even though they say she is a girl like that, the kind mothers tell you to avoid being, the kind boys talk about; there’s is way more to Zarin than just being a pretty girl that goes out with boys despite the fact that they shouldn’t. And Porus can see somehow beyond that.
The relationship between Porus and Zarin was an interesting part to see develop and how it was developing from each side, there were points when I wanted to just grab them and go “now kiss” and times when I just wanted them to go on their own path or felt bad for one or both of them. I had so many feelings going on while reading this.
It explores a lot how subtle power can be, as the form of gossip and knowledge, as a way of knowing you are attractive and using that as power to get things you wouldnt otherwise, as reputation, and sometimes how manipulation can be power. It also poises the fact that men have more power in a society like that and what can entail. There is a lot of questioning why choices are made and what the consequences may be.
I enjoyed this book a lot, learned a lot from it and it made me question things a little more. I do recommend reading and expect some intense moments throughout the book, this isn’t a soft book but a gritty book about abuse, about reputation, about love, about friendship and beliefs.