I read Tanaz Bhathena’s debut book A Girl Like That a month or so ago, and that book is still so sharp in my mind. Everything about that book was sharp and soulful, angry and sprinkled with little, barely-there joys. That book made me feel.
Unfortunately, her latest book, The Beauty of the Moment that I read approx 48 hours ago, has already faded into hazy phrases and colorless images. I guess comparisons shouldn’t be a thing and I should review the book as a standalone. But when the first book made us readers happy and craving for more, the second book is, frankly, a disappointment.
And I feel confused about this book. Its like the book isn’t even by the same author. Sure, we have mentions of Qala Academy in Saudi, and hints of life there, and little bits about Parsis. We have dystopian family lives and missing parents. And we have a love story. We even have the hero save the girl, yet again.
But it doesn’t have the fire, the boldness that was there previously. The characters aren’t as fleshed out, even with their exhaustive background stories.
Its a story about two teenagers, Susan Thomas and Malcolm Vakil. In the beginning, they both seem completely different. But as the story progresses, we realise they are quite the same. Susan is a (Malayali) girl who gets the best grades and doesn’t put a toe outside the line to keep her parents happy. Her family has just moved from Jeddah to Canada, though her father hasn’t moved yet which leads to its own complications. Malcolm is a “born-and-brought-up-in-Canada” Parsi boy (yay for much needed diversity) who is supposed to be the bad boy. But other than the superficial forcedness of this trope, its clear to even the most inattentive reader that he is just your boy-next-door, and has long ago given up on the rebel phase. They both become friends, albeit slowly, and then the friendship blossoms into romance, albeit slowly. The characters go through the usual teenage angst, rebelling against parents, trying to get over broken hearts and tragically broken homes all the while studying as hard as possible. There’s constant action in The Beauty of The Moment and I think that makes it lengthier and stilting than necessary.