After Kiran Noorani’s mom died, Kiran vowed to keep her dad and sister, Amira, close. Then out of the blue, Amira announces that she’s dating someone and might move cross-country with him. Kiran is thrown.
Deen Malik is thrilled that his older brother, Faisal, has found a great girlfriend, even if it’s getting serious quickly. Maybe now their parents’ focus will shift off Deen, who feels intense pressure to be the perfect son.
When Deen and Kiran come fact to face, they silently agree to keep their past a secret. Four years ago–before Amira and Faisal met–Kiran and Deen dated. But Deen ghosted Kiran with no explanation. Kiran will stop at nothing to find out what happened, and Deen will do anything, even if it means sabotaging his brother’s relationship, to keep her from reaching the truth. Though the chemistry between Kiran and Deen is undeniable, can either of them take down their walls?
I received a digital advanced readers copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
It All Comes Back to You is nothing like what I expected – and I’m glad for it. For what I thought was a fluffy and sweet romance, It All Comes Back to You is, what I’d more accurately describe, a romantic comedy with drama and coming-of-age elements centering two very flawed desi Muslim teens. It is messy at times, and delightfully so, making It All Comes Back to You such a memorable story and a wonderful addition to young adult fiction.
Told in alternating perspectives, the story follows two desi exes who are reunited after years apart. Kiran, a Pakistani-American teen, lost her mother to ALS years ago, and as a consequence is determined to keep her father and her older sister close. But when Deen, who ghosted her, returns to her life when Kiran’s sister becomes engaged with Deen’s older brother, Kiran is determined to find out what happened. Meanwhile, Deen is determined to keep Kiran from the truth. In a game of cat-and-mouse, the two teens grapple with the push of the past and the pull of their chemistry with one another.
Despite what the book’s vibrant illustrated cover by Zahra Fatima may suggest, It All Comes Back to You is not a fluffy and wholesome romance. Rather, It All Comes Back to You is more of a romantic-comedy-drama-coming-of-age that also explores the weight of grief and family expectations, redemption, and grudges. At times, the story is solemn; we see Deen and his brother suffering from their parents’ expectations and how their parents use their sons for clout. We also see Kiran and her father still suffering from the aftermath of Kiran’s mother’s passing, and how a cloud of grief follows them, causing Kiran to be more protective of her sister and father while her father throws himself into work. A huge secret from Deen and his brother’s past is a central mystery of the story, a secret so severe that their family would do anything to keep the truth from resurfacing, giving the story great emotional beats and intrigue to continue reading.
The cat-and-mouse element of It All Comes Back to You added great emotional depth to the story. Driven by their desires to protect their loved ones, Kiran and Deen attempt to outmanoeuvre each other – with Kiran trying to find the truth of why Deen ghosted her, and with Deen trying to protect his brother from the truth coming out. The conflict that arises is addictive and brilliant, deepening both characters, their motivations, and also their frustrations (and undeniable attraction) with one another. What I enjoyed is that, as readers, we see the trainwreck waiting to happen from miles away, but as we are pulled deeper and deeper into Kiran and Deen’s motivations, particularly when they turn desperate, we understand that what unfolds is inevitable – and we cannot help but watch it unfold.
Indeed, the two cross boundaries and lines of what would be considered ‘good’, but with what’s on the line – specifically, their siblings’ wellbeing, their happiness, their futures – the story is a fantastic illustration of how far someone will go to protect someone you love, even if it hurts the person that they are protecting. It All Comes Back to You never intends to be a blueprint of ‘moral’ or ‘good’ desi teens. Rather, It All Comes Back to You is a story about very flawed teens who get carried away with their desire to protect someone they love, from someone they used to love, and explores all the feelings and hurts and consequences with acute self-awareness.
I adored both Kiran and Deen, but the first thing you should know going into It All Comes Back to You is that Kiran and Deen are far from perfect characters. Kiran lost her mother to ALS, a pain that she still carries as she hasn’t had the opportunity to grieve, while Deen hides a secret that weighs him down with guilt. Indeed, the two regularly push boundaries, make a lot of mistakes, misunderstand one another (and also misunderstand themselves!), and lash out in grief and hurts that haven’t quite healed yet. But rather than this be a detractor to the book, the deliberate and thoughtful characterisations of both Kiran and Deen, though at times discomforting, elevate the story to one that is vulnerable, candidly portraying the ugliness and hurts we all carry – if only we were honest with ourselves.
MY CONCLUSION: RECOMMENDED
Sincere and thoughtful, It All Comes Back to You melds the complexity and messiness of relationships and grudges with a compelling story about how the path to hell – or a trainwreck – is paved with good intentions and teens who love and want to protect their siblings. It All Comes Back to You is fun and engrossing with a delightful touch of mess, making this a vulnerable story interwoven with personal truths about how we are all far from perfect.
Is this book for you?
Premise in a sentence: Two exes meet once again when their siblings are engaged to one another, reviving old grudges and secrets.
Perfect for: Readers who love reading ‘messy’ characters; readers who enjoy stories that balance humour and serious topics; readers who are looking for complex desi Muslim leads.
Think twice if: You aren’t a fan of stories with characters that may be ‘frustrating’ because they make ‘frustrating’ decisions.
Genre: young adult romantic-comedy with drama and coming-of-age elements
Trigger/content warning: bullying, parental abuse, alcohol consumption, mention of drug use