Book Review: From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon

May 22, 2018

Edition: Hodder & Stoughton Paperback
Release Date: May 22nd, 2018
Pages: 336
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Source: Received as an ARC from Date A Book Australia
Links: Goodreads | Author's Website | Buy the book
Aspiring filmmaker and wallflower Twinkle Mehra has stories she wants to tell and universes she wants to explore, if only the world would listen. So when fellow film geek Sahil Roy approaches her to direct a movie for the upcoming Summer Festival, Twinkle is all over it. The chance to publicly showcase her voice as a director? Dream come true. The fact that it gets her closer to her longtime crush, Neil Roy—a.k.a. Sahil’s twin brother? Dream come true x 2.

When mystery man “N” begins emailing her, Twinkle is sure it’s Neil, finally ready to begin their happily-ever-after. The only slightly inconvenient problem is that, in the course of movie-making, she’s fallen madly in love with the irresistibly adorkable Sahil.

Twinkle soon realizes that resistance is futile: The romance she’s got is not the one she’s scripted. But will it be enough?

Told through the letters Twinkle writes to her favorite female filmmakers, From Twinkle, with Love navigates big truths about friendship, family, and the unexpected places love can find you.
Written by self-proclaimed ‘Author of light, bright, diverse YA’, Sandhya Menon’s latest novel is a powerful story about coming of age, living your dreams and honouring your culture. ‘From Twinkle, With Love’ was one of my most anticipated novels of 2018 and is a standalone that follows the successful release of Menon’s debut novel ‘When Dimple Met Rishi’ in 2017 – a novel I absolutely adored! The novel is written as a series of letters/journal entries addressed to some of Twinkle’s favourite female film-makers, and its story will undoubtedly resonate with a lot of female readers beat up about the patriarchy, longing to make their mark on a world that doesn’t always hear them. It does not disappoint! 

‘From Twinkle, With Love’ noticeably reads younger than ‘When Dimple Met Rishi’, despite the stories sharing various similarities. The story follows sixteen-year-old American-Indian Protagonist Twinkle Mehra, who dreams of being a successful filmmaker like the women she writes her letters to. However, Twinkle is a wallflower and self-identified ‘groundling’ losing her best friend Maddie to the popular group at school she calls ‘the silk feathered hats’. When Twinkle is approached by fellow ‘groundling’ Sahil Roy to direct a film for their school’s showcase, she jumps at the chance to finally show her school what’s she made of. 

Twinkle hopes that in producing this film, she might possibly win back her bestie and gain the attention of her long-time crush Neil Roy (Sahil’s twin brother). She views the opportunity as a one-way ticket to the ‘silk feathered hats’ and the beginning of a life-long career. Of course, things don’t go exactly as planned. Twinkle surprises herself as she finds herself falling more and more for the wrong twin whilst simultaneously receiving secret admirer emails from someone named ‘N’. She’s definitely in for a ride.

The novel presents a very realistic portrayal of a young wallflower’s high school experience and her desire to be visible. She's ambitious and driven and is heavily influenced by her culture and upbringing as a brown girl. However, film making is her absolute passion in life and until Twinkle's (the best name ever) doing what she loves, there’s this massive whole inside of her. Books like these are so tremendously important to teenage girls because they represent the idea that girls CAN do anything and that their visions shouldn’t be laid to waste but instead showcased and heard. Sandhya shows that young girls are capable of breaking any glass ceilings that hold them down and I think that’s such a necessary message to stand for.

‘From Twinkle, With Love’ also navigates coming of age, struggling with your identity, the high’s and lows of female friendship, and what it means to be someone who makes mistakes and grows from them. I loved Twinkle! She’s quirky, hard-working, a fan of Supernatural and Reece’s chocolate, enthusiastic and relatable – what’s not to love? However, Twinkle wasn’t perfect. She had numerous demons that she had to confront over the course of the story. In fact, a lot of the book was about Twinkle finding and owning her voice and a big part of that was Twinkle learning to stand up for herself and getting over her fear of confrontation. I also found it really refreshing that not only did the story faithfully depict the pain of a female friendship breakup but also, the joy of finding friendship in unexpected places by breaking down the barriers created by social groups. 
“Sahil is like gentle sun on a winter’s day. You automatically want to turn your face to it and soak it up.” 
Sahil is sweet as pie. He’s awkward and geeky yet comfortably and confidently himself. He is so supportive of Dimple and is a pretty great feminist ally. However, that’s no surprise because Menon is a pretty kickass feminist herself and that definitely translates throughout her work. Anyway, I am so here for more gentle male leads! Menon’s Rishi from ‘When Dimple Met Rishi’ was also charming yet genuine and Sahil was similarly a refreshing breath of air. I loved that for the most part, the relationship between Sahil and Twinkle was really supportive and healthy. Aside from one obvious secret kept by Dimple, they had really good communication between them. They supported each other’s dreams, worked well as a team, and Sahil never pushed his feelings on to Twinkle. Too many YA novels romanticise toxic relationships but not this one. Twinkle and Sahil, they are a pretty perfect OTP!

The blurb sets up a potential love-square but I wouldn’t be concerned. I did feel like the secret admirer storyline was quite predictable and easily forgotten, but I think readers will be pleasantly surprised by the lack of competition. As a reader, I was much more interested in other surprises in the story. For example, Twinkle comes from a low-income family and lives a noticeably less ‘flash’ life than her friends. Gosh, it was so refreshing to see a down to earth protagonist who didn’t have it all, it just made her feel so much more real! 

Financial struggle is one of the issues that her immigrant family struggles with, additional to the loss of losing one of Twinkle's Grandmothers in her homeland. Both of these issues heavily affect Twinkle’s mother who appears to suffer from depression and is thus, severely disconnected from her daughter. I found it really interesting and valuable to have this storyline represented in the book because a lot of readers of colour will potentially be able to relate. This speaks to the power of representation and I admire and love how strongly Indian culture was celebrated in ‘From Twinkle, With Love’. 

Admittedly, there was a point in the novel where Twinkle acted out and made questionable decisions. However, I did feel like dramatics and all, it made a really important statement about power and storytelling. Sometimes when power goes to their head, truth tellers can get so wound up in telling other people’s truths that they lose sight of their own. Twinkle survives this rough patch because her desire to be true to herself wins in the end. One of the quotes from the end of the book reads, 
“You know that shirt you have that says, ‘I am my ancestor’s wildest dreams’? That’s what I’m trying to do here; I’m changing the narrative. I so badly want to earn the right to wear that T-shirt one day.” 

The verdict? ‘From Twinkle, With Love’ is entertaining, smile-inducing, inspiring and definitely lives up to the hype. There are so many hidden gems in this novel that I haven’t even had time to touch on. There are positive and supportive male friendships, a strong family culture led by a kooky and highly lovable Dadi, a gender bender adaptation of Dracula, a Michael B Jordan reference, fun emails, blog entries and text messages, Botany puns…just all of the good things! I loved every minute of it and can't wait to see what Sandhya Menon writes next!
Disclaimer: Thank you Date A Book and Hachette Australia for my review copy! I received this novel from the publisher's for review, this has not affected or influenced my opinion in any way. Opinions are entirely my own.

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