If You Could Be Mine
Set in Iran, If You Could Be Mine tells the story of Sahar, a seventeen year old girl who has been in love with her best friend Nasrin since childhood. Homosexuality is punishable by death in Iran, which is bad enough, but now Nasrin is getting married. Sahar has to face losing her love forever, unless her wild idea to save their romance works. Bizarrely, it seems that transsexuality is not frowned upon by the Iranian religious regime, and surgery is even state-funded. In desperation, Sahar considers changing her sex to convince Nasrin that they can stay together.
This book certainly exposed a world that I don't know much about (though I probably know a little more than most of its prospective teen readers). Life in contemporary Iran is certainly no picnic for women, and for those on the margins, and the novel doesn't pretend otherwise, with an ending that is quite realistic and rather sad. But although the subject matter is meaty, the execution left me a little disappointed. Written in what seems now to be the standard YA format of first person, present tense, the style was rather flat, and I would have loved more detail about daily life in Iran. The author is the American-born daughter of Iranian migrants and maybe lacked the direct experience that would have added extra authenticity to the novel. I would still recommend it as an eye opener to a world that is mercifully different from middle class Australia, but I'd recommend Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis first.