When summer comes, I crave rom coms like nothing else, so More Than Just a Pretty Face was exactly what I needed!
Title: More Than Just a Pretty Face
Author: Syed M. Masood
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: Aug 4, 2020
Genres: YA Romantic Comedy
I received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
For fans of Becky Albertalli and Jenny Han, a sweetly funny YA rom-com debut about falling in love, familial expectations, and being a Renaissance Man.
Danyal Jilani doesn’t lack confidence. He may not be the smartest guy in the room, but he’s funny, gorgeous, and going to make a great chef one day. His father doesn’t approve of his career choice, but that hardly matters. What does matter is the opinion of Danyal’s longtime crush, the perfect-in-all-ways Kaval, and her family, who consider him a less than ideal arranged marriage prospect.
When Danyal gets selected for Renaissance Man–a school-wide academic championship–it’s the perfect opportunity to show everyone he’s smarter than they think. He recruits the brilliant, totally-uninterested-in-him Bisma to help with the competition, but the more time Danyal spends with her…the more he learns from her…the more he cooks for her…the more he realizes that happiness may be staring him right in his pretty face.
I will immediately clarify that I am not Muslim, so I will not be commenting on the own voices representation of the Muslim faith and culture that is presented in this book. I would highly suggest going to own voices reviewers for more information regarding the rep.
As much as I love rom coms, it’s been a long time since I’ve read one that I’ve loved from start to finish—this was one of those books where I enjoyed the romance the whole way through. Danyal’s and Bisma’s relationship goes from cautious friends to adorable lovers in a fantastic slow-burn that had me grinning from ear to ear. The development of their friendship, and then their love, just made me so happy. They supported each other and respected each other the whole way through, and I really appreciated that.
Each character was developed very well in this story. I really connected with Danyal. He’s arrogant at times, but he has his struggles that are easy to relate to. His journey to standing up for what he believes in was well done, and I enjoyed seeing his growth. Bisma has a little less growth, but I loved her story nonetheless. Her backstory (and present story) are heartbreaking, and I liked seeing her push past that and be her strong, smart self. Bisma has a little sister, who I adored. She’s so hilarious and sweet.
I did take issue with one portrayal of a very religious character, one of Danyal’s friends, who had little depth. He was seen as a jerk most of the time, which was sad to me, as that is a stereotype that I wish could be challenged more often.
One of the most important parts of this book is it’s discussion of whitewashing history. This is a huge part of the story, and I really loved seeing Danyal discover his own lack of knowledge to certain parts of history that affected his family and eventually challenge himself to share this erasure of pain and suffering caused by white people with others. This is such an important discussion to have, and I felt the author did an excellent job with it.
- I wish Danyal’s relationship with his parents, especially with his dad, were explored a little bit more. What’s there is interesting and good, I just wanted more.
- There are so many amazing descriptions of food in this book! I was salivating through it all.
I really enjoyed this book! It was such a fun read, perfect for fans of rom coms that touch on deeper topics.