Hello everyone and welcome to my very first tour!! I am so excited to do this today because spoiler alert: I loved this book. I just finished it after binging it in a few hours (because of course I’m doing this last minute. but that’s besides the point) and wowow. My brain might be just a liiiittle bit fried so excuse me if my thoughts are a bit scattered – but hey, when are they not.
I’ll stop rambling though and let’s get started with the book’s info! Stick with me until the end of the post for the author’s info as well ❤️
Title: More Than Just A Pretty Face
Author: Syed M. Masood
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: August 4th 2020
Rep: Pakistani and Muslim rep, POC side characters, sapphic side character (no relationship shown on-page)
Length: 352 pages
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.
*Thank you to the publishers and Negalley for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Thank you to Hear Our Voices for letting me participate in this book tour!*
Let’s start at the beginning. This book, unlike most books, did a magnificent job at beginning. Ever heard about how you’re supposed to start a book at the latest possible moment in the story? This book did exactly that, and it was great. I found myself intrigued and I knew more or less immediately that this was going to be a good one – of course, you always get surprises both in good and in bad, but this book didn’t have surprises, and I say that in the best way possible. It was good at the beginning and it was good until the very end.
Some might say that after the very beginning, the story slows down a little. I have to admit I didn’t even feel it. Like I said, I binge read this book so fast I didn’t even stop once, and I didn’t need nor want to.
I think two things truly made this book. The first one is the characters. I’m not sure how to explain how they felt so real. No one was perfect, and I think that’s also a big part of the point.
Danyal I liked from the very beginning; I have to applaud the author for managing to write a character that was just the right amount of arrogant. Arrogant characters are always a hit or miss for me, because it either feels empty if it’s just a little, doesn’t work if it’s just too much, and only works if it’s right in the middle or all the way. Does that make sense? I won’t go into too much depth because of spoilers, but his character development was very satisfying to witness.
Bisma, on the other hand, felt a little distant at times now that I think about it whereas the other characters felt very clear and alive. While reading, though, I really liked her. I was angry on her behalf, a lot, and enjoyed reading about her, but she definitely wasn’t the most remarkable character to me, and that’s why I find I don’t have tons of things to say about her.
Now, the side characters were the real deal. Kaval was one of the interesting ones at first, because I just really didn’t like her and she really felt like the dating trope (is that even a thing) “the one that wants to change you”. In the end though the ones that really carried this book on their backs were Intezar – who is such a good friend!? – and Suraiya who was the cutest and honestly most relatable little beast, love her.
The romance the romance the romance. Lemme just talk about the romance here for a sec before moving on. The romance in this book was a lot less present than I thought it was going to be, even if it is there. I also think you could qualify this as a slow burn. But either way, I thought it was so damn cute. There really isn’t much else to be said, it was just super fluffy and adorable and cute and a really well done friends to lovers.
And in the end, one little bonus that just really made this book so much better was the humour. Let me tell you the number of times I laughed out loud while I read this, 10/10
The second thing that made this book was the whole philosophical part that I just really wasn’t expecting. I guess it works pretty well with the title, More Than Just A Pretty Face, because while Danyal is more than just a pretty face, this is in many ways more than *just* a book about a bunch of teenagers.
Sometimes the characters did feel a bit caricatural (some, at least), but again, I think that’s part of the point, or at least that’s how I understood it. Like I said, Kaval felt like an “obstacle” Danyal needed to overcome – that is being shallow and only seeing someone’s appearance – while Sohrab felt like the impersonation of this guilt you get when you’re happy and then you realize so many people out there aren’t and it’ll be impossible for you to help them all. Maybe I’m looking too far into this (more like very probably), but I think it’s a fun way of looking at it.
Then of course, there’s this whole other part about Danyal’s thesis I thought was fascinating, but I’ll leave you to discover that for yourself, because I find that reading and thinking alongside the characters was not only fun but very interesting!!
Finally, there’s of course the side of the book that I loved – Danyal’s decision between doing what’s good for him and doing what’s right. No spoilers so no details, sorry! Read the book 🙂
One thing I do have to mention one thing that I didn’t particularly appreciate (but that was less the book’s fault and more society’s fault). Danyal is praised just for being a decent person. We should stop praising men for doing the bare minimum. That’s not to say I didn’t like Danyal, I really did and I think he’s a wonderful person. Let’s just not praise him for doing what every man – every person – should do, yes?
I will of course not judge the representation part of the book simply because I am not ownvoice and it is therefore not my place to say whether it was done well or not. Definitely do check out all the other beautiful people on this tour (find the schedule here) and read their ownvoice reviews!!
And I think that’s all for today folks!! Thank you so much for reading! Overall, I think everyone should read this book because of the extremely important things it talks about. It leaves you thinking just a bit differently, or at least more aware than you were before.
I grew up in Karachi, Pakistan, and currently live in Sacramento, California. There have been plenty of stops in between though. I’m a first generation immigrant, twice over. I’ve been a citizen of three different countries and lived in nine cities.
I am, as Goethe, said, “nothing but a wanderer […] on this earth.”
Living among different people, in different countries at fascinating times in their histories, has shaped both my view of the world and my writing. Ultimately, human beings are the same everywhere (despite the fact that they tell themselves, everywhere, that they are different from each other), and the theme of this fundamental human unity informs everything I write.
As to my life outside of writing, I went to the William and Mary School of Law, and before that attended the University of Toronto, where I studied English Literature. I am currently practicing as an attorney and must “measure out my life in coffee spoons” on a daily basis.
Some members of my family will tell you that I’m also a poet. This isn’t true. I wrote a few poems in Urdu when I was a teenager, and I’ve never heard the end of it…which I wouldn’t mind, honestly, if they were any good. As it is, I’m very happy living in prose, thank you very much.
Other interests include good food, video games, sitcoms, and books of all kinds. Most of my time that doesn’t go to writing or billable hours is consumed by my two children, four and two years of age.
Stay safe everyone!! Sending you lots of love!!! ❤️
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