Danyal Jilani has no lack of 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.
Then Danyal gets selected for the Renaissance Man, a school-wide academic championship and 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.
Title: More Than Just a Pretty Face
Author: Syed M. Masood
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Expected Publication: August 4, 2020
Date Read (finished): December 1, 2019
Rating: ⭐ 4.5/5
“Nothing says happily ever after like a meal crafted with love.” -Syed M. Masood, More Than Just a Pretty Face
Let me start by saying Danyal is the sarcastic main character who will make you laugh from start to finish. There were times where I had to stop myself from looking like a smiling idiot as I read this book in public, which I probably didn’t do a very good job on.
Aside from Danyal’s humor, I loved seeing his growth throughout the book. In the beginning, he was very focused on his own problems: his crush on Kaval, his father’s constant disapproval, and his mother’s scheduled arranged-marriage meetings. The farther I read, however, the more Danyal opened his eyes to problems outside his personal bubble.
Enter Bisma. She is “nerdy” and smart and the opposite of what Danyal looks for in a girl…or is it? As Danyal spends more time with her, he finds himself falling for Bisma. Although others seem to only focus on Danyal’s poor performance in school, Bisma is very supportive of him. Danyal, in turn, is also encouraging of Bisma’s ambitions and interests. This leads me to another reason why I love this book.
There were lots of moments where stereotypes were broken, whether it was subtle or direct. In many cultures, there are traditional gender roles assigned to both men and women. For example, men are usually associated with working at a prestigious, good-paying job to financially support the family. Danyal is passionate about cooking, which his father and many others do not see as a proper profession. Despite their thoughts, he continues to pursue his dream of becoming a chef. Bisma also breaks the traditional gender role given to women, and other sociocultural issues are addressed throughout the story.
More Than Just a Pretty Face is definitely a read I recommend picking up. Growing up in an Indian-American family, I found lots of relatable moments and familiar elements as I dove into this book. It’s cute and funny and reminds us that there are different perspectives in life.
Until next time, happy reading! ♡
P.S. – My reviews are spoiler-free, which means they can seem vague. If you want to know more about what happens, you’ll just have to read it for yourself. ✨