Cover image for Written in the stars / Aisha Saeed.
Written in the stars / Aisha Saeed.
Publication Information:
Penguin Group USA 2016

New York, New York : Speak, 2016.
Physical Description:
293 pages ; 21 cm
Nailas parents allow her to choose what to study, how to wear her hair, what to be when she grows up, but when she falls in love with Saif, her parents take a family trip to Pakistan to marry her to the man of their choosing.
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SAE Paperback Teen Collection
SAE Book Teen Collection

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"Naila's conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing- She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up-but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating-even friendship with a boy-is forbidden. When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila's vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed-her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it's too late. Praise for Written in the Stars "

Author Notes

" Aisha Saee d is a Pakistani-American writer, teacher, and attorney. She is one of the creators of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks social media campaign. Her writings have appeared in Orlando Sentinel , Muslim Girl Magazine , and Rivaaj Magazine . She is a contributing author to the highly acclaimed Love Insh'Allah- The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women , which features the story of her own (happily) arranged marriage. Aisha lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and sons."

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Raised in a conservative Pakistani immigrant family, 17-year-old Naila has been an obedient daughter for most of her life. However, her American education has exposed her to her classmates' comparative freedom and allowed her to spend time-and fall in love-with Saif, a Pakistani boy whose family has been ostracized from their community. Her parents' expectations are clear: "You can choose what you want to be when you grow up, the types of shoes you want to buy.... But your husband, that's different." After Naila's transgression is discovered, she is whisked back to Pakistan and forced into an arranged marriage. In her YA debut, attorney and writer Saeed, a contributor to the collection Love, InshAllah, movingly conveys the intense cultural pressure that motivates Naila's parents and the heartbreaking betrayal Naila feels as she is deprived of her rights, cut off from the outside world, and threatened with shame and death. Saeed includes resources for those who, like Saif's family, wish to help real-life Nailas, in this wrenching but hopeful story. Ages 14-up. Agent: Taylor Martindale, Full Circle Literary. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

High-school senior Naila's college plans are derailed when her conservative Pakistani American parents catch her attending prom and whisk her away to Pakistan for a "visit." To her increasing horror, Naila realizes that her parents intend to force her into marriage with a Pakistani man. Saeed's suspenseful, emotional novel is elevated by Naila's intelligent voice and her unwillingness to become a victim. (c) Copyright 2015. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter 1   "Naila, I wish you didn't have to miss the game." Carla tells me. "Game?" I check the road, on the lookout for my mom, before turning to her. She rolls her eyes, her blonde hair up in its cheerleader ponytail. Our lives may have changed a lot since we met in first grade, but that eye roll and the annoyed pout, that hasn't changed at all. "Game?" She looks at Eric. "Do you believe her? It's only the last game of Saif's high school career." She turns to me. "Naila, are you really going to miss this one too?" "You know I can't go." "It's his last game, Naila." I glance back at Saif. He's wearing his blue soccer jersey and chatting with a friend a safe distance away by the green mosaic mural next to our high school's school entrance. I take in his lean frame, his olive skin, and the brown hair that brushes against his eyes. He catches my eye just then; his dimple deepens with his smile. He takes a step towards us, and then stops, remembering why he can't approach. "See?" Carla exhales. "He knows he can't even stand here with us because your parents might freak out." "My mom might freak out if she sees Eric standing here too," I remind her, jabbing a finger towards the road. "I still don't get it," she continues. "He's the sweetest boyfriend ever. Any parent should be thankful their daughter met a guy like him. What's their deal?" I've explained it all to her too many times. I'm starting to think she just doesn't want to hear it. "It's complicated," I finally say. "Well you know what's not complicated?" she counters. "That he's the most understanding guy I've ever met. Seriously, Eric," she touches his arm, "would we be celebrating our three month anniversary next week if I never so much as stepped past this curb with you?" Eric clears his throat, "Um, good question, but," he glances back, "I think Saif's calling me so uh, I'll leave you both to discuss that." He kisses Carla and jogs over to Saif. Good, I think, relaxing a little now that I am alone with Carla. "I want to go tonight, Carla," I tell her, "you know I do, but my parents--" "Oh, come on!" Carla shakes her head. "They can't keep you locked up forever. Just sneak out the window. Just this once! You're not twelve-years-old. Besides, your parents zonk out by 9 o'clock anyways. I can pick you up. At least you'll catch the last half. It would mean so much to him." "I wish I could but I can't. We'll be in college this time next year, I can't risk getting caught now." I don't mention the tension between my parents ever since I got my acceptance letter last week and the hushed arguments about whether or not I will go away to college at all. "Hey," Saif calls out to Carla, "Eric and I are leaving without you if you don't hurry up!" "Fine," Carla rolls her eyes at me. "You can't say I didn't try." She walks over to join Saif and Eric. Before they all head to the student parking lot, Saif turns to look at me. Love you, I mouth to him. I press my palm to my lips and blow him a silent kiss. He grins-- and then, they disappear behind the curve. Only now does my jaw unclench, my shoulders relax. And only now do I let myself acknowledge that familiar mixture of relief and guilt that has been my companion this past year. Has it already been a year? I think back. Yes. It's been one year since Saif told me he cared about me as more than just his friend. It's been one year since I told him I felt the same way and kissed him in the side-courtyard with the tangled palm trees next to the library, deciding it was time to let my heart, and not fear, dictate what I would do. And, my stomach tightens; it's been one year since I began deceiving my parents without ever once opening my mouth. I hear a honk. My mother's minivan pulls up to the curb. "Sorry, beta, I had to stop and get gas," she says when I get inside. Her hair, more black than gray, is tied up in a loose bun, a large red scarf circles her neck despite today's unusually hot Florida sun. "I didn't realize I was this late though," she scans the empty school entrance. "You should have stayed inside until you saw my car, you never know who is out there." "Carla was here," I tell her quickly. "She only just left." "She's a good girl." My mother smiles. "I'm glad you're both still friends." "Well," I begin, "she was telling me about a soccer game tonight. She really wants me to go and support the team too. The school year's almost over and all our friends are going to be there, and, well, we'll be roommates in a few months anyways, so I was wondering¾" "No," my mother shoots me a surprised look. "You know that." "But Ami," I begin. "It's not you I'm worried about. It's all the boys that would be there. Besides, Auntie Lubna is having a party tonight, did you forget already?" "Is Imran going?" I bite my lip, knowing the answer. "He has to study," she responds. "Why can Imran skip these parties but I never can?" "What's gotten into you today?" my mother glances at me. "If you don't go people will wonder, you know how they talk. Besides, your brother gets bored. He doesn't have anyone his own age at these things. I already ironed your salwar kamiz. We'll leave as soon as your Abu can shut down the dry cleaning business for the day." I lean back into the seat. I've gone to more of my parent's dinner parties than I can count. Gatherings of my parent's friends, all Pakistani immigrants like themselves who meet almost every week at one another's homes to talk in the language they grew up in and listen to the music of their childhood. I used to even eye Saif from afar at these dinner parties, until his sister Jehan got married to someone that shocked the entire community. His name was Justin. They didn't know much about him, except that he was definitely not Pakistani. "We all saw it coming," my mother had said in a horrified voice on the phone to her sister. "They never had any control over their kids what else do you expect?" I think my mother and her friends might have forgiven them this marriage had Saif's parents seemed remorseful about Jehan marrying outside the South Asian community. But Saif's parents didn't seem ashamed at all. No one invites them anymore. I watch the trees that line the road fly by as we drive past. It's almost summertime. Not that anyone can tell. Elsewhere there are seasons. Leaves bloom green and then turn gold and crimson as they fall to the earth, change coming to everything in its path. Except here. In my world the leaves stay green, the same Florida heat beating down on us, day after day, year after year. Unchanging. But not for long. Soon things will change. Soon they will have to. I've spent my entire life banking on this very truth. Excerpted from Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.