Farah Naz Rishi’s YA romance It All Comes Back To You is part Austenian marriage plot and part You Got Mail farce. Following the days before the much anticipated wedding of Amira and Faisal, the book focuses on their respective siblings, Kiran and Deen, as they scheme against each other to hide secrets and derail the wedding. The twist is that Kiran and Deen dated secretly years ago before their relationship abruptly ended with Deen ghosting. The double twist is that they’ve been in touch all this time through the fictional online multi-player game Cambria, albeit without their knowledge.
As with all enemies-to-lovers plots, It All Comes Back To You is heavy on the delicious yearning. Both Kiran and Deen are butting up against their emotional faults – Kiran can’t see past parental expectation after her mother dies and Deen can’t confront his own feelings, instead focusing on protecting his sensitive older brother. Both spend the novel circling each other rather than speaking truthfully. And though the story doesn’t end on a happily ever after (a relief after so many machinations), it does set up a pathway for healing for all involved characters.
The story gets Gen Z humor mostly correct with overt references to pop culture and tongue-in-cheek wordplay. It still feels like an adult wrote it, especially when Kiran investigates Faisal through Facebook rather than Instagram or something newer. The comedy is there in parts, but Kiran’s single-minded need to save Amira from an unhappy marriage feels malicious at times and her tactics are mean-spirited, especially as they hurt the sister she’s trying to protect. Deen is similarly unlikeable. Though he oozes charm, both on the page and off, his inability to see past his own mistakes with Kiran to realize her intentions have little to do with him makes him frustrating to read. She accuses him of gaslighting her at least once in the story, which he does not refute.
Rishi spends much of the novel explaining and over-explaining Pakistani Muslim American culture. Besides ensuring that the reader, whoever they may be, knows the difference between a dholki and a mehndi, many of the terms employed are qualified with either “Pakistani,” “Muslim,” or “desi.” It feels self-defeating that a story focusing on Pakistani Muslim American characters would need to predicate everything through this anthropological lens.
Additionally, the cliche-ridden descriptions of dancing did little to endear the characters and the parents felt one-dimensional, either sinisterly neglectful or kindly in turn. Coming in at near 400 pages, the novel could have featured less in the way of subplots and hobbies to focus on the characters, allowing them to provide more of a view into their emotional states.
It All Comes Back To You is a generally breezy read with intrigue and drama. It goes down easy and is best suited for young readers who want less on the romance side and more on the plot.