Hello my pandas! Today I’m going to have a review instead of a Thinking Thursday so that I can get as many of my #AsianLitBingo Challenge books reviewed this month without having two posts per day. Today’s book feels especially appropriate given that it is currently AP and SAT season right now. Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia is definitely one of the more unique books I’ve read recently. This is my fourth book for the challenge, and I used it for the Southeast Asian MC square. Where are the other two reviews you might be asking? The two books I read before this, while both absolutely amazing, are ARCs, and I’m going to try to review those towards the end of the month, closer to the release date.
I’ll let Goodreads tell it: I’m your protagonist—Reshma Kapoor—and if you have the free time to read this book, then you’re probably nothing like me. Reshma is a college counselor’s dream. She’s the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars. But there are plenty of perfect students in the country, and if Reshma wants to get into Stanford, and into med school after that, she needs the hook to beat them all. What’s a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. Which is exactly what Reshma does after agent Linda Montrose spots an article she wrote for Huffington Post. Linda wants to represent Reshma, and, with her new agent’s help scoring a book deal, Reshma knows she’ll finally have the key to Stanford. But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. And she’s already planned the perfect ending: after struggling for three hundred pages with her own perfectionism, Reshma will learn that meaningful relationships can be more important than success—a character arc librarians and critics alike will enjoy. Of course, even with a mastermind like Reshma in charge, things can’t always go as planned. And when the valedictorian spot begins to slip from her grasp, she’ll have to decide just how far she’ll go for that satisfying ending. (Note: It’s pretty far.)
I have very mixed feelings about this book, which is why my rating is a 7.5 (yes, not complicated nor oddly specific at all.) On one hand, I admired a character who had such an intense drive in school, someone who wanted to get into Stanford so desperately like I do. On the other hand, it was really hard to get through parts of the book because she is just so unlikeable in many parts. And I don’t mean unlikeable as in oh, she’s whiny. No I mean full on despicable, with cheating and blackmailing and all. Reshma is that rare type of antihero who you have a hard time rooting for. In the end, I feel like it’s usually the characters who have a noble goal but just go too far to accomplish it that we usually have a hard time rooting for. (Cough Umbridge Cough.) There is no padding this: Reshma is definitely not someone to look up to, especially morally. However, something about her story just pulled me in. There was something almost fascinating getting a glimpse at her life. It was almost like my life taken to the desperate extreme. It was almost fascinating seeing the relationships Reshma managed to build despite her ice cold attitude. I was also glad to be surprised by the ending; I did not think it could happen with this book.
To be honest, I think the main reason I enjoyed this book more than I probably should have was that it examined so many things that could be improved in our education system. It highlighted details that people seem to miss or not get. In a super extreme way, it showed how the super selective nature of these colleges can be super harmful to high schoolers. (FYI, Stanford’s acceptance rate is under 5%. Just to put things into perspective regarding just how selective we’re talking here. I actually connected with quite a few of Reshma’s thoughts, especially regarding teachers who tell me to ignore my GPA, but I will say that never to the extreme that Reshma does.
All in all, I recommend this book to those who want to know how stressful college applications are these days and to everyone who wonders why on earth teens are so stressed out. Well, here’s your answer.