If You Could Be Mine (Goodreads | Amazon) is one of those books that I'm glad I read. It tackles and interesting topic, two girls who are in love with each other in Iran where they have to hide their affection or risk death.
What makes this book interesting is the sliver of Middle Eastern culture that it shows, especially regarding transexuals. Apparently in Iran being born in the wrong body is considered a disease, not a sin, and you can change sexes with government aid. Whereas homosexuals might be killed, transexuals will likely be judged but allowed to exist.
This book was more of a love story than I expected. I knew that was central to the plot, but I had trouble buying into the relationship. Part of problem, for me, was that apparently the Sahar has wanted to marry her friend Nasrin since she was six. Rather than see their relationship developed, as readers we're thrown into the middle of Sahar's lovesick devotion.
Because we're following Sahar, the love story almost always feels one sided and unhealthy. Even though Nasrin is attracted to Sahar, it's clear that she never intended for the relationship to continue into adulthood. Nasrin comes across as selfish and spoiled whereas Sahar comes across as a devoted little puppy, following Nasrin around. The unbalance in the relationship was difficult for me to swallow, especially when Sahar is considering a sex change to be with Nasrin.
This book is a bit of a mixed bag. I'd say it's worth reading if you're interested in homosexuality in an oppressive culture, but it's also quite flawed. It focuses too much on the unhealthy unbalanced high school relationship, which takes away from the potential important discussion on transsexuality and homosexuality. It's hard to root for Sahar when you feel like she's better off without Nasrin, especially when the book is so centered on Sahar trying to keep the relationship going.
As a reviewer I know I should give you a neat wrapped up conclusion summarizing this book. But I can't. I find the topic interesting but the execution sloppy, but it's such a unique subject it's hard not to recommend for the little interesting tidbits immersed in the overly romanticized plot.
I received an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.