Sara Farizan's "If You Could Be Mine" is both an illuminating and frustrating read, if I'm reflecting upon the experience. No doubt in my mind it's a beautifully told story, and I found myself immersed in the brief read. But I'll admit my frustration came with the naivete of the characters and some dimensions of the emotional conviction rather than the outcome of the story.
The story revolves around the forbidden lesbian romance between Nasrin and Sahar as they reside in Iran. Things become complicated when Nasrin is set to wed a man in his 30s. Sahar is confused, desperate, and torn from the news. She wants to do everything she can to remain with Nasrin, even sacrifice the prospects of her future, even explore the possibility of changing her gender just to have more power, more say in her relationship with Nasrin. She gets advice from her gay cousin, meets a transsexual friend, and comes to understand that the world she lives in doesn't accept her identity, though she has people who encourage her to remain true to who she is.
This is not so much a romance as it is a coming to terms story. Sahar and Nasrin are both very complicated characters and there were many times I thought their fatal flaws frustrated me, but it was realistic. I don't know if it pulled me in as much as it could've though - I though it lacked a bit of more urgent conviction for the nature of their secret encounters, for the consequences of them possibly getting caught, for even the moments when Sahar sincerely considers undergoing gender surgery. It felt like something was lacking, but I couldn't quite put my finger on the matter for what it was.
I did ultimately like the story on an overarching note, though. I thought it was an honest portrayal of the two girls and ultimately Sahar does grow to accept her realities for what they are and mature over the course of the narrative in some measures, though it saddened me that the measures didn't work for her in the way she wanted. I think Sara Farizan's an author I'd like to watch in the future to see more of her work, and "If You Could Be Mine" is a work that's worth perusing to see the ups and downs and identity issues of two girls who love each other in secret.
Overall score: 3/5 stars
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Algonquin Books.