This is such an interesting story. I love books with characters that readers can follow for years and see how they change and grow (or not) over time. Such is the case here with Asha Ray and cie. When we first meet her, she’s a Ph.D. student, doing research in a field that is meaningful to her. But when she is reunited with her high school crush, Cyrus Jones, her focus shifts. It shifts even more when she doesn’t get the results she hoped for from her research and she starts to think about doing something else with her life, as in create an app whose popularity surpasses everyone’s expectations.
Tahmima Anam writes with a lot of care and intimacy. I felt connected to Asha and interested in her life and thoughts from the very beginning. That does not mean that I agreed with every decision she made, especially the emotionally-driven ones, but it does mean that I was able to see things from her point of view, have sympathy when the moment called for it and not judge her too harshly for her weaknesses. I will admit that Asha Ray is too good for Cyrus though. She’s such a dedicated and smart young woman, whereas he wanders the world not getting too attached too things, too involved, too serious. He is serious about Asha, yes, because she is one of his two anchors, the other being his best friend, but they have such different ways of seeing the world.
This is why, as much as I felt proud of Asha at times for showing growth and strength, when it comes to Cyrus, I simply could not cheer her on. It is as though, where he is concerned, she has to make herself smaller to fit in his world. Things do change when he becomes the focus of the app, but not for the better. For this reason, the cryptic ending did bother me. I do wish the author could write a sequel or novella to let us know what really truly happens, because as comfortable as I am imagining endings for characters I care about, it always feels more real when the actual creator delivers on their characters’ futures with certainty.
As I said, this is a very interesting story. It feels very realistic. Though I do admit the story would have shared the same quality even if the app created had been less popular, so there wasn’t a need to make it that big a deal. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of the app’s development through Asha’s point of view. I am very proud of her for many reasons. Even during the times I wish she had been stronger, I was proud of her. I am also proud of the author for letting herself be so original and embracing peculiarity through her writing. I did, however, dislike my experience reading the last chapter. Not only was the content disappointing but so was its title. Above everything, I just wish she hadn’t used a specific current event in her story, as I feel it took some of that creativity she developed so well away and simply left me with a bad taste. So as interesting a read as this is, the ending makes me not particularly want to reread it, ever. All of that to say that I have conflicted thoughts on it, but I was thoroughly engrossed so that has to count for something and be reason enough to pick it up if the premise catches your eye.
Thank you Simon & Schuster for the copy in exchange for a review.