10 Things I Hate about Pinky is Menon’s third young adult novel in a cluster of novels that began with When Dimple Met Rishi and was followed by There’s Something about Sweetie. In the first novel, wealthy Indian American teens, Dimple and Rishi, fall in love at a summer college camp after their parents set them up. The second novel starred Rishi’s younger brother, Aashish, and his romance with Sweetie. In this third novel, Aashish’s friends, the nerdy Samir Jha and the unpredictable and wild Pinky fall in love. Unlike the first two novels, this one moves away from a wealthy Silicon Valley setting to the summer home of a Silicon Valley family in Cape Cod.
Pinky, her parents, her aunt and uncle, and her cousin, Dolly, have spent every summer in their home in Ellingsworth in Cape Cod. They relax by the lake, play endless games of Boggle, eat elaborate meals, and go to the Country club every year. Pinky’s mother and step dad are lawyers and her aunt and uncle are therapists. Her cousin Dolly is the perfect child who volunteers at soup kitchens and is a straight A student. Pinky has multi-colored hair, some piercings, and is the rebel who is constantly at war with her mother.
Samir Jha is part of a friend’s circle in California who is every Indian mother’s dream—polite, hard- working, and Harvard bound. He is homeschooled and has a difficult life with a possessive single mother who is a cancer survivor. Samir escapes to an internship in Washington, D.C. but when that internship falls through, he is conveniently available to play the role of adoring boyfriend to Pinky in Cape Cod so she can win her mother’s approval. He agrees to the charade because he hopes to impress Pinky’s mother, a partner in a law firm, to secure a future internship.
Pinky, Samir and Dolly have several summer adventures. Dolly works hard at trying to break out of her perfect child mold by dating a rich bad boy in the neighborhood. Pinky covers up for Dolly’s escapades while faking a relationship with Samir who mostly annoys her with his planner, daily schedule, good behavior and well-ironed clothes. Together they rescue a baby possum and nurture it secretly, get into quarrels over many things, and slowly begin to understand one another. Dolly, in the meantime, deals with her own crises and emerges relatively unscathed.
Pinky and Samir get involved in a local cause—the saving of a butterfly habitat from greedy developers. As the summer moves to a close, they fall really in love, save the butterfly habitat, help the town economically by finding a different location for the new development, and fly back to sunny California.
Once again, this is a charmed neo-liberal world. Everyone is wealthy; no one experiences racism or poverty. Large problems like ecological destruction find easy solutions. Even the possum is happy and thriving. True love tames Pinky, and she reconciles with her mother. Eventually, they all drive away into the sunset in a rented BMW to board a first class flight to California with the promise of another idyllic summer to follow the next year.
Menon has created a charming universe of characters with these teen romances. She has infused the mostly white universe of YA novels with a touch of color and plenty of assimilated model minorities. Her next novel could potentially feature Dolly, a minor character in this one, but deserving of a full-blown novel of her own next. For all its predictability, this is the perfect read for a pandemic summer—full of sunshine, idyllic days, easily solved problems, and an incredibly cute possum. Whether you are a teen reader or an adult looking for some escapist reading, this one fits the bill.