Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

If You Could Be Mine

Rate this book
Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.

So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin’s parents announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.

Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution. In Iran, homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman’s body is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. As a man, Sahar could be the one to marry Nasrin. Sahar will never be able to love the one she wants, in the body she wants to be loved in, without risking her life. Is saving her love worth sacrificing her true self?

256 pages, Hardcover

First published July 1, 2013

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Sara Farizan

11 books559 followers
Sara Farizan (1984, Massachusetts).

Her parents immigrated from Iran in the seventies, her father a surgeon and her mother a homemaker. Sara grew up feeling different in her private high school not only because of her ethnicity but also because of her liking girls romantically, her lack of excitement in science and math, and her love of writing plays and short stories. So she came out of the closet in college, realized math and science weren’t so bad (but not for her), and decided she wanted to be a writer. She is an MFA graduate of Lesley University and holds a BA in film and media studies from American University. Sara has been a Hollywood intern, a waitress, a comic book/record store employee, an art magazine blogger, a marketing temp, and an after-school teacher, but above all else she has always been a writer.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
2,385 (25%)
4 stars
3,222 (33%)
3 stars
2,851 (30%)
2 stars
791 (8%)
1 star
237 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,356 reviews
Profile Image for Karen.
631 reviews97 followers
December 16, 2013
I wanted this book to be better than it was. The subject matter--two teenaged girls in love in Tehran--is interesting, and there are some wonderful details. I was tempted to add my "horror" tag to this one, because sweet molasses, it's no joke living under a repressive religious regime. If The Handmaid's Tale gave you the willies (and it should have) then dwelling for a bit on the realities of a culture that insists on covering women from head to toe, and likes to stone gay people to death, will really curl your hair.

So it's a shame that this book isn't better written. It's short but it should be shorter--too many pages are given over to reminders that homosexuality is illegal (in case you've forgotten about that, since the last sentence) and to pointless back-and-forth between the protagonist and her girlfriend. The relationship between the girls should be complex and multi-leveled--our protagonist Sahar is poorer, plumper, and smarter than her beloved Nasrin, who treats her at times like a faithful dog and at other times like her best beloved. But it falls flat because the book straps on a passel of clichés and skims along the surface of things, telling us that Sahar "tries not to drool" when Nasrin looks beautiful, that she knows Nasrin is shallow but just can't help loving her, that Sahar's heart is breaking, and so on. It's here that the book could spend more time, going into the idiosyncratic details of their relationship and life together. Instead, it jogs along at a brisk clip and we have to take Sahar's word for the emotional underpinnings.

There are some great details, especially for a reader like me, who isn't familiar at all with this world. When Sahar gets into a physical fight with another woman in a restaurant, the male bouncers who rush over are prohibited to touch them because they're women, so they end up "like limping penguins," trying to get between the women with their chests puffed out and their hands behind their backs. When Sahar falls in with her crafty gay cousin Ali's friends, she discovers a world of government-sponsored transsexuals. Apparently the Iranian government will help pay for sexual reassignment surgery, because there's nothing in the Koran that says it's a sin. This has pros and cons--for true transsexuals, there's some measure of social support. Some gays, though, are forced to have the surgery in order to make them fit the social mold. A gay man is forced to become MTF so that his relationship with another man will be (more) socially acceptable. Needless to say, the process destroys him.

Overall, this is a story about a tumultuous passage for Nasrin and Sahar--but it's not the end of the road. After Nasrin is married off to her respectable, hunky doctor husband and Sahar continues on to university, the same questions remain. Nasrin may find some happiness in her family, but her life will be circumscribed and she'll never be her true self. Sahar's path is more open, but when she meets another girl in university who shows interest in her, and considers whether she's attracted in return...what then? If she lives in Iran, she can never be in an open relationship with another woman. The penalties for discovery are mortal. There's some suggestion that she may go to Istanbul, where Ali has moved after his (predictable) beating at the hands of the police. But her aging father lives in Tehran and Sahar herself feels strongly Iranian. It's unclear whether she'll be able to extricate herself from her toxic country in order to have a full life--and if she does, how safe she will be in Istanbul or wherever she goes next.

Sobering stuff, and I wish I could say it was more artfully told. I think this is the author's first novel, so she may be back with another effort. (Please: more scene, less summary!) Whatever technical flaws this book has, it has heart. And that's really the important thing. Technical stuff you can learn, with a good editor and some hard work. Heart just has to happen.

Profile Image for Giselle.
990 reviews6,364 followers
August 8, 2013
This was very different from anything I've read before. A very short book at only a little over 200 pages, If You Could Be Mine examines not only life in Iran, but life in Iran for a young girl in love with her best friend, Nasrin.

From a very young age, Sahar knew she wanted to many Nasrin and spend her whole life with her, they've been in a secret relationship for years now, and being found out could mean imprisonment - at the very least - for these two. This was my first book set in Iran and I found the culture and laws quite intimidating. Even though I'm not blind to what life is like in that country, especially for women, it was still shocking to find out the extent of it all that still exists to this day. For instance, a woman can get arrested, sent to prison to be raped and abused, all because she showed her elbow in public. This part of the story held my interest completely. I wish it had gone further in showing Iran, though; the beliefs and culture, the ways of life. I feel like the setting had so much untouched potential. Don't get me wrong, the book does give off a decent feel of its country, it simply isn't explored as much as it could have been - or as much as I was hoping, at least.

The main topic in this novel revolves around what it's like to be gay in a country such as Iran, the dangers and obstacles that are encountered are appalling. As it's against the law to have a relationship with the same sex, except if you get a sex change, sex changes are common amongst young and old. They're even encouraged when someone finds themselves questioning their sexuality. Sahar thinks this is what she needs to do to get Nasrin to cancel her engagement. The love she has for this girl burns so intensely that it was almost unbearable at times. She was willing to throw her whole life away for a girl who doesn't even seem to be on the same page. Not that I blame Nasrin either with laws and her family hanging over her head. She's taking the easy road the majority would take. It's an incredibly difficult situation; I felt sympathetic towards them both. Sahar is an especially likeable character with a sometimes sarcastic, always passionate personality. Nasrin burns with confidence and a happy, perfect life is all planned out, but we come to see her facade for what it is. A few side characters play a big part in this story as well, and become Sahar's support group throughout. I enjoyed Ali the most, his god-like status amongst his people is kind of awe-inspiring and made me very much curious as to what he was up to. I'm a little disappointed that this part of the story was never really explained, however, other than a few assumptions made in passing. Though I understand that his story was meant to stay in the background. Maybe to lend a bit of an extravagant vibe while at it.

All in all, If You Could Be Mine is a quick read that has a surprising amount of character depth, an exceptionally unique premise, and a realistic ending that is greatly appreciated. I do feel like the story missed the oomph factor it needed to make it truly extraordinary. Even so, it's one I predict I will not forget so easily.

An advance copy was provided by the publisher for review.

For more of my reviews, visit my blog at Xpresso Reads
Profile Image for Lauren.
Author 73 books119k followers
May 7, 2014

If You Could Be Mine tells the story of Sahar, an intelligent ambitious teenager living in Iran who is in love with her best friend Nasrin. Iran is a dangerous place to be out of the closet, although there is hidden gay community, which Sahar is introduced to by her cousin Ali.

It is at a party at Ali’s house that Sahar meets Parveen, a beautiful trans woman. Ali explains to her that the Iranian government sees trans people as a mistake made by God, a soul born into a wrongly gendered body. They’re not only accepting of transitioning, they will pay for gender re-assignment surgeries. Sahar wants nothing more than to be able to marry Nasrin, and take care of her forever, but she also knows that if she transitioned she would just be living another lie.

If You Could Be Mine is written with simple, clear language, accessible by both YA readers and a potentially younger audience. I was brought along by the story’s narrative, even as I learned a great deal about Iran, its gender and sexuality politics, and the wealth of culture there.
Profile Image for CW ✨.
644 reviews1,692 followers
March 19, 2020
Although this book contains important representation of what it is like being gay and having an intimate relationship that is perceived as wrong and sinful in society's eyes, there were a lot of things in this book that did not sit well with me.

- Follows Sahar, an Iranian teen who is in love with her childhood best friend, Nasrin, and their complicated and tenuous situation when Nasrin is engaged to a man.
- I think the exploration of internalised anti-gay sentiment and the experience of being gay in a place where being gay is not accepted were important.
- The book also examines cultural values, navigating cultural values that clash with what defines you as a person, and the weight of sacrifices in a relationship.
- However, I felt really uncomfortable with the trans subplot.
- There is also a scene that I felt uncomfortable with.
- For this reason, I really cannot, in good faith, recommend this book.

I feel really uncertain about this review though, because I'm not Iranian nor am I trans, so I acknowledge that I may be missing nuance here, so I am open to discussion regarding this book.

Trigger/content warning:
Profile Image for Andrew.
556 reviews160 followers
August 17, 2013
I'm sorry, but no.

I appreciate that the author is obviously trying to write important social commentary, but it's too bad that the characters are pretty unlikeable. The story revolves around the relationship between two young girls in Iran. In order to forestall the marriage of one, the other proposes a sex change (apparently legal, even encouraged, in Iran) so that they can be together. No problem so far.

Except our heroine spends half the book thinking this is some minor operation that can happen before the wedding. And she obviously has no love for the regime so why don't the pair consider something less dramatic, like leaving the country. It's revealed they have the means. Oh, and when I say pair, it really helps if you tell the girl you love that you plan to do this. To my mind, this is all evidence of a plot not fully thought through.

After finishing this I realized it was a teen book. That explains the tame same-sex love. Fine. But it doesn't explain the lack of depth to the characters. I've seen plenty of teen books with great characters. It just all feels a bit lazy.
Profile Image for Bogi Takács.
Author 53 books566 followers
August 5, 2016
I read this YA novel for the #ReadProud challenge Week 3.

I had mixed feelings about it... It was short and a quick read, with some interesting and sharp-tongued characterization - but not all the character portrayals worked for me. If You Could Be Mine was a novel about forbidden love between girls, but the actual love was somehow missing - the protagonist and point-of-view character seemed constantly annoyed with her love interest, and the two of them barely talked, even about life-changing decisions.

I felt that the background information about the setting (present-day Iran) was sometimes a bit too detailed and lecture-y, but I don't know how much American teenagers know about Iran.

I also thought that if the author wanted to emphasize the tension between trans people being more accepted than cis gay and lesbian people (at least in the eyes of the law) in Iran, rather than vice versa as in the West, taking the story in more of a migrant narrative direction might have worked better, because then this conflict could have been made more explicit. Spoiler: .

The book also seemed intent on playing up how difficult it is to surgically transition to male, for pure shock value (), and most of the trans people who appeared did not seem happy with being trans. (Calling trans-related surgeries "an operation from hell" conveniently ignores that many of them are performed for other reasons as well, e.g., mastectomies in breast cancer, and seems to say that if they are trans surgeries, then they are somehow more horrible.) As in the US at least, where this book was published, a lot of trans men transition after self-IDing as lesbians in their teenage years, this strikes me as especially odd.

Also spoiler about the ending:
Profile Image for Tori (InToriLex).
460 reviews360 followers
March 19, 2016
Find this and other Reviews at In Tori Lex
Actual Rating 3.5 Stars
The subject matter of this book gave great insight into how homosexuality is treated in Iran. Being hung, imprisoned or beaten by the police are horrible consequences for expressing your love of the same sex. Sahar and Nasrin were opposite in many ways, but somehow found a way to fit together.  Their lesbian relationship is compromised and further complicated when Nasrin gets engaged. Sahar seriously considers sex reassignment surgery so that she can one day marry Nasrin, that came off as strange and naive to me. As careful as Sahar tries to be about being found out as a lesbian, I couldn't see her even considering such a drastic decision.

"Smile and don't worry so much. See the swinging bodies in the square? Smile and don't worry so much. Can't be with the person that you love because it's against the law? Smile, damn it."

The characters were realistic but the naivete of Sahar and Nasrin frustrated me alot while reading. Alix, Sahar's older cousin, and Parveen were refreshing personality's who did balance some of that frustration out. Nasrin was my least favorite character, because her selfishness and vanity was brushed off too many times by the people around her. Sahar grows up in this book, and becomes more like-able because of it. The novel is illuminating because it gives you insight into a different culture and place. I've learned and thought  more about how difficult becoming and living as a transsexual is. That's what kept me reading and what I enjoyed the most.

The writing was well done and although this is a young adult book it doesn't shy away from mature subjects. The ending did feel rushed, but was satisfying. The family relationships described in this short read highlighted what led men and women to do what's expected rather than what they want. Despite my frustrations while reading, I was immersed in the book and enjoyed it. I would recommend this book to people who want to read a diverse, but hard hitting story about young love between two girls in Iran.
Profile Image for Cassi aka Snow White Haggard.
459 reviews155 followers
September 15, 2013
If You Could Be Mine 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.

For this review and more check out my blog Galavanting Girl Books
Profile Image for Wren .
382 reviews92 followers
October 11, 2016
This review can also be found at http://fortheloveofbooksreviews.blogs...

Sahar is in love with her friend, Nasrin. But there's a problem: they're both girls, and they live in Iran, where being gay can get you killed. Sahar has trouble imagining a life without Nasrin, so when Nasrin gets engaged she comes up with a drastic solution; become a man.

As Sahar struggles with the uncertainty of the future and the prejudice present in her society, she meets some new friends and spends time with her gay cousin, Ali. She forms a plan to stop Nasrin's marriage and hopes for a happily ever after, but she is unsure of whether she will go through with it.

I wasn't planning on reading this book because it sounded too sad for me, but my book club voted it as one of the books of the month, and it was in my library, so I picked it up. I can say that I was absolutely correct, this is an incredibly sad book. I struggled reading about all of the things that Sahar had to deal with and I did my best to prevent myself from crying while I read. However, at the end of the book, I did shed some tears.

The most striking thing about this novel, in my opinion, is how raw it is. Sahar's narration doesn't hold anything back, and reading about her hopes and fears was heartbreaking. I couldn't put the book down. This book isn't the type of thing that I usually read but I am so glad that I picked it up.

This story made me really stop and think. I thought about how lucky I am to live where I do, and reading about Sahar's situation made me so grateful that I have basic rights, which aren't really compromised due to my sexuality, as opposed to what she was facing. It also made me angry. Very, very angry that people have to live in places where they fear being jailed or even killed for who they are, and who they love. I feel like this book is a sort of call to action to readers, to look into what hardships LGBTQ people face in other countries, and maybe to consider helping them in whatever way possible.

Aside from the highly emotional aspect, Sahar's character was extremely likeable and she had a unique and memorable voice. She stuck out to me because of her struggles and her internal dialogue and narration, and I think that she was the perfect choice for a narrator. I feel that if Nasrin were narrating I might not feel the same connection, considering that some descriptions of her made her seem selfish or inconsistent.

I can't say much concerning the accuracy of the author's portrayal of the setting, however I can say that I found myself fully immersed in the story and setting and that it was easy to understand what was going on despite cultural differences, terms, et cetera. I understood the danger that Sahar faced in her country and the rules and regulations very easily, as the author explained them well through Sahar's voice.

While I recommend this book to anyone looking for emotional YA and LGBTQ books, I do want to say that I think that very sensitive readers might want to steer clear of this one. There are upsetting situations which could hit close to home for some people, and the theme of homophobia is rather dark considering the risk of violence and death.

As I mentioned, this book will be enjoyed by those looking for emotional YA and/or LGBTQ stories. If you're interested in a book that deals with being LGBTQ in a country where it's illegal to have same sex relationships, this book is for you.
Profile Image for Jessikah.
117 reviews7 followers
May 5, 2013
3.5 Stars

While I hoped that this would be a story of defiance in the name of true love, what I got was a more complacent look at the status of the gay community in Iran. This does not mean that this was a bad story by any means. In fact, I learned about the status of transsexuals in Iran which gave me a serious, "wrinkle in the brain" moment.

Let's get down to plot. Sahar is a lesbian. Living close by, her childhood friend Nasrin has also been her secret girlfriend for years. Nasrin claimed Sahar as "hers" years ago when they were children and this bloomed into a deep love with the manic feelings of teenage lust and passion. Nasrin, however is quick to declare to Sahar that they are not "gay" they are in "love" and while this may be the (pansexual) case for Nasrin, it is not for Sahar. However, gay or not, what Nasrin says is true. The two girls are indeed in love.

There are some issues with their relationship, of course. First, Sahar, while a valued friend of Nasrin's, is from a working class family while Nasrin is upper class. More than that, the two girls live in Tehran, Iran, where a lesbian couple could be potentially killed. Also, Nasrin seems more than a little selfish. She is spoiled and has her whole family in tact, while Sahar has to care for her despondent father who has not been the same since the death of Sahar's mother. While it is well known that Sahar is very smart and will most likely go to medical school, Nasrin is thought to be only good enough to marry rich. And while Sahar dreams of herself being the successful doctor who will marry Nasrin, in reality Nasrin's family has arranged a marriage with a currently practicing (male) MD intern. Blindsided by the engagement, Sahar is equally enraged and depressed.

The story takes a detour when Sahar's gay cousin, Ali introduces her to the gay underground in Tehran in hopes of showing Sahar that there are other eligible young women to fill the void that will be left by Nasrin. What Sahar learns is that in Iran, a transsexual can receive a sex change operation at the partial expense of the government. This is where that "wrinkle in the brain" came in for myself. I looked it up and it is true. "Gender reassignment" is considered a "cure" for a sickness in Iran. If it is deemed that you actually are a man trapped in a woman's body or vice versa, not only is it sanctioned but the government will pay up to half the cost of the operation. Iran is actually one of the countries with the highest number of gender reassignments preformed aside from Thailand. However, as a homosexual, you are condemned.

So, when Sahar meets a lovely woman named Praveen and discovers that she was once a he, love begins to take Sahar's mind to strange places. If she was a man, she could marry Nasrin. At least this is what Sahar believes, not taking into account how Nasrin's ultra showy family would feel about their daughter's childhood friend changing genders and marrying their princess. Praveen agrees to introduce Sahar to a support group of transsexual youth but it becomes clear to everyone that Sahar is a lesbian and not trapped the the wrong body. Sahar looks at the days ticking closer towards Nasrin's wedding and tries to speed up her "operation" in spite of herself. It is a dreadful plan and everyone, including Sahar knows this. However, it is all she has to get her through the day, especially when Nasrin frequently tells her that her heart belongs with Sahar.

So that is the plot and background. Without giving anything away, the story has a very open ending. If you are expecting the girls to run away together or for the families to suddenly agree to call off the wedding and hide Sahar and Nasrin's love from the government, you will be sorely disappointed. Again, this does not mean that this is a bad book. I really feel that this is unfortunately a very real portrayal of how this situation could (safely) play out for these two. Nasrin, we see is very used to creature comforts and would probably never give them up no matter how much she loves Sahar. It also adds dimension to the story that Nasrin's fiance is actually a nice guy. While it would have been easy for the author to create a monster akin to poor Maryam's husband in "A Thousand Splendid Suns", or so many other books that deal with arranged marriage, this author gives us a fine young man who is silly infatuated with Nasrin. He is also eager to gain the approval of her best friend, Sahar. Through no fault of his own, he is doomed to be hated.

Other great angles that adds some depth are the emerging friendship between Sahar and Praveen, Ali's rise and fall as the "go to guy" in the underground community and Sahar's love for her clinically depressed father. Faced with many difficult choices, Sahar has more on her plate than other young lesbians in progressive countries and we want her to make the best ones, but because of her native country there are no easy answers. This may make this read feel unsatisfying for some. Still, that doesn't mean that it is not worth reading.
Profile Image for Saiesha.
116 reviews2 followers
December 11, 2021
This book was not a typical romance and I was grateful for that. There is a bittersweet ending which I adored—if only because it was realistic, the main character grew from it, and the angst was delicious to read.

I am so thankful that I waited to read this when I was feeling up to it. This was a really enjoyable read, I could barely put it down.
Profile Image for Kelly.
Author 7 books1,211 followers
March 26, 2013
There was so much potential here, but it never quite came together. This was rushed, unpolished, and with a few more rounds of revision, it could have gone into something really great.

Sahar has always loved her best friend Nasrin. But their love is beyond that of best friends -- it's romantic. But this is Iran and their relationship is not just illegal, but it's one that could get them severely punished. When Nasrin's offer her hand to an older man in marriage, Sahar's world falls apart. She's not sure how she'll be able to carry on without Nasrin as her romantic interest.

It's through Sahar's cousin, though, where she meets a woman who is utterly beautiful who, as it turns out, is transsexual. In Iran, it's okay to be a transsexual and go through the entire procedure. For Sahar, this is the moment she realizes that maybe she can be with Nasrin. But is the operation the right choice?

At a sparse 250 pages, Farizan attempts to showcase a heart-felt romance between two Iranian girls. Except, it feels entirely one-sided and unreciprocated by Nasrin. Worse, the relationship history is given exceedingly short shrift at one chapter opening the story. There's no time for the reader to invest in the girls or their relationship, and as as result, it never quite makes sense why Sahar would seriously consider surgery so she could be with Nasrin.

When the issue of reassignment surgery comes up, it's also given short shrift. Sahar is completely uneducated -- which is realistic and expected, given her desire to make it happen quickly -- but she never consults with Nasrin on this. So, she wants to have the surgery specifically to be with Nasrin, except she's never going to tell Nasrin how much she's invested in the relationship. Enough to make a LIFE ALTERING DECISION to be with her.

There's a disconnect between what Sahar feels and what we as readers see and feel along with her. It feels as though there's a window up between the two, the blinds only letting in the slightest light. With such a heavy and potentially dynamic story here, not getting insight into Sahar's feelings, into the depths of her longing and desire for Nasrin, it's hard to buy the bigger premise. Not to mention the rushed ending, the too-pat conclusion and the easy out for cousin Ali (who was gay himself). The passage of time between Nasrin's wedding and There were so many balls in the air, but all of them were left to fall disjointed. As for the writing itself, it's simply okay.
Profile Image for sofia (sam willows).
286 reviews355 followers
February 8, 2017
2.8 - I have to warn everybody that there seem to be patterns in my reviews: I usually write rant reviews. Oh well.

So, this book. This is about an Iranian girl and everything she does to be with her best friend/lover, Nasrin. Unfortunately, throughout the book, I kept waiting for Sahad to ditch the selfish brat that is Nasrin, but as you may imagine by my rating, she didn't.

The thing is, the plot was really interesting. A lesbian living in Iran? Sign me up. But unfortunately, Sahad started doing crazy things to be with someone who, despite always saying she loved and needed Sahad, didn't do much about it and even neglected her.

At first, our MC was slightly transphobic and very annoying, giving more value to Nasrin than to herself and her own opinion. Also, Sahad didn't seem like she was uncomfortable in her skin, with her gender. She just wanted Nasrin back, and I felt like that was a very poor representation of trans people and their issues.

What was, however, a good representation was the beggining of the book. There, the trans girl (I read this on audio and can't spell her name. Let's call her P) was very open and a great character.

What I hated was the ending. Really? She just forgave Nasrin and forgot about their history together to have a baby? Ugh. And Ali (her cousin. Can't spell his name either) just left the country? I didnt like that ending, it didn't feel like enough closure. The only thing I did like about the ending was how her relationship with her father ended up. That was sweet and that felt like enough closure.

Overall, I enjoyed most of the book but it isnt my first choice for f/f recommendations. If you're looking for something better, read Sara Farizan's other book, Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel :)
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Philomena Callan Cheekypee.
3,900 reviews395 followers
November 23, 2017
This was a different kinda read for me.

Since they were young Sahar knew she loved and wanted to marry her best friend Nasrin. Unfortunately same sex marriage is illegal in Iran except if you get a sex change. Will she do whatever she needs to, to be with the woman she loves?

I loved the insight into living in Iran. Quite an eye opener. Well written informative read.
Profile Image for Nisrine.
27 reviews13 followers
November 30, 2021
The first lgbt book i could actually relate to . I didn’t know that Iran’s culture is similar to my own home country .
This book broke my heart in pieces .
Profile Image for Jan.
808 reviews28 followers
January 8, 2016
While reading this book one thought kept coming back to me time and again; that while things aren't perfect here in the U.S. for LGBTQ individuals, we still are extremely lucky to live in a country that gives us the freedom to live the life we choose to live openly. Not so for those who live in countries like Iran where this story takes place.

Seventeen year old Sahar and Nasrin have known each other all their lives and have been in love with each other since they were six. Behind closed doors in each other's bedrooms they share passionate kisses and romantic promises. But what does the future hold for two girls in love in Iran? Can they ever be open about their relationship? Can they live together as a couple? Unfortunately for them, these are just fantasies and can never happen. Anyone found to be gay or lesbian can be beaten, imprisoned, or executed. I was curious and googled homosexuals in Iran and found out that Iran is one of a handful of countries where homosexual acts are punishable by death. It just makes me crazy and mad and so sad that someone can be put to death for loving someone of the same sex. So like I said, we have it good here. There's plenty of places where a LGBTQ person can live openly without fear, and not just in big cities like San Francisco or New York. I live in a university town where I work as a substitute teacher. Last week I was subbing in a Life Skills classroom that had 4 educational aides. I had been talking to one of them for just a few minutes when she started telling me what she and her wife were going to be doing that night. Wow, I thought. How cool is it to live in a place where a person can tell a complete stranger something like that without fear of being judged, or even care if she was, and to also work for a school district where you can be openly gay or lesbian and not have to worry about being found out? Very cool indeed.

So what were Sahar and Nasrin to do? Nasrin came from a wealthy family that gave her everything she wanted. She had some good qualities, but mostly was a rich, spoiled princess who, as Sahar described her, would cry if another girl was wearing the same dress as hers at a party. She didn't care about school, nor did she make good grades. She was raised to be catered to, first by her family (and their servants), and eventually by a husband. Sahar on the other hand was at the top of her class in school and hoped to attend Tehran University and become a doctor. So it was inevitable that the only life that was available for Nasrin was to many into a nice family to a suitable husband who would treat her like the princess she was. I felt sorry for Reza, the man that Nasrin is engaged to marry. He is a kind and decent young man who truly loves Nasrin and caters to her every whim. But she will never love him no matter how kind or good he is. He deserved better.

Here's where the story took a detour that I wasn't expecting. Through Sahar's cousin Ali who's gay, she meets Parveen who is transsexual. She finds out from Parveen that although homosexuality is considered a perversion in Iran, being transsexual is seen as a legal medical condition and the government will also pay for the surgery. I don't want to give away too much of the story, but Sahar thinks she may have found a way for her and Nasrin to be together.

Okay, so in Iran being transsexual is considered a legal medical condition that can be fixed, and being gay or lesbian is punishable by death. What??? I never knew about this at all. I did a little more googling and found some disturbing information. Clerics accept the idea that a person may be trapped in a body of the wrong sex, and because of that belief many homosexuals can be pushed into having gender reassignment surgery. On one website I found a young man that had this to say, "My father came to visit me in Tehran with two relatives.They'd had a meeting to decide what to do about me... They told me: You need to either have your gender changed or we will kill you and will not let you live in this family." I found this to be quite horrifying.

I felt the pain and sadness that Sahar and Nasrin experienced not being able to love each other openly or live their lives as they desired. I thought the author did an excellent job giving us an honest portrayal of what it's like to live in Iran, where being gay or lesbian means keeping your true self hidden, and to stay alive means living a lie.
Profile Image for Nafiza.
Author 6 books1,207 followers
August 26, 2013
I spent the entire novel feeling sorry for Sahar. That could be a title on its own, couldn’t it? Feeling Sorry for Sahar. I reckon it could give Feeling Sorry for Celia a run for its money. But I am digressing.

Let’s ignore the fact that Sahar lives in Tehran for now or that she’s Muslim. Let’s focus on the fact that Sahar lost her mother at a very young age and that her father has chosen to withdraw from life and wrap himself up in his grief to the detriment of his relationship with his daughter. Sahar is in love with her best friend who seems to be in love with her. They spend their time kissing, making out, and generally doing all the things that would be deemed sinful. It would be difficult enough to be gay in the western world but when you live in a country where you can be jailed for showing your elbows, things become a lot more serious.

I found the novel to be interesting but while I felt for Sahar, I couldn’t completely connect to her. Perhaps it is because I couldn’t see what she found so enticing in Nasrin who, to all intents and purposes, seemed to be spoiled and selfish. Her inability to recognize and accept other peoples’ differences also turned me off quite a bit. I liked Parveen quite more than I did Nasrin because Parveen’s struggles sound genuine and Nasrin for all that she claims to love Sahar, does not ever show it.

The novel itself seemed to be giving a rather polished look at what it means to be gay in Iran. Ali’s celebrity status is destroyed far too easily to be credible. The ending is promising but again, is far too smooth for my liking. I did like that Sahar managed to extract herself from Nasrin but there is an ambiguity to the entire thing that troubles me. Of course, it is not like Sahar can change her country’s attitude and perspective by herself and I did like that Farizan addressed Sahar’s ill-advised and wrongly motivated desire to turn into a man. A woman who likes other women or a man who likes other men are different from people who feel wrong in their skins and to force a person to change sex just because of their sexual orientation is inhumane.

If You Could Be Mine is an interesting book but I think what makes it interesting are the settings and the sexual orientations of the characters rather than the story itself. I’m not sure how authentic the portrayal of lesbian culture is in the novel though. Sara Farizan is Iranian but I am not sure whether she has lived in Iran as a teen. However, the YA genre does need more diversity and this novel certain accomplishes that.
Profile Image for Kara Babcock.
1,920 reviews1,257 followers
August 24, 2021
Do not let the slim form factor and thinness of this book fool you. Sara Farizan poses a thorny problem here and asks very real questions about the lengths to which one might go to be with one’s forbidden love. Ultimately a tragedy of sorts, If You Could Be Mine is nevertheless filled with promises of new beginnings. It is a reminder that, in the face of incredible oppression, people always find a way to strive to be together, to hope, to have enough. Finally, it is a story about the outsize importance we place upon gender.

Sahar and Nasrin are 17-year-old Iranian girls on the cusp of womanhood. They also might be gay—that is, they love each other and are attracted to one another, but in Iran this is illegal. Nasrin’s parents arrange her betrothal to a doctor doing his residency, starting a ticking clock for Sahar. She is determined to find a way that she can be with Nasrin. When she learns that Iran recognizes being transgender as a “medical condition” and will pay for the surgeries involved in medical transition, Sahar thinks she has hit upon the solution: she can’t be with Nasrin as a woman, but what if she were instead a man? As Sahar becomes more and more obsessed with enacting this plan, she gets involved both with trans Iranians as well as the seedy underworld her cousin, Ali, is wrapped up in.

There’s a lot to unpack here. This is a story about love, but it is also about selfishness. Farizan only gives us access to Sahar’s perspective as a narrator, so she is almost certainly unreliable in some ways. She is head-over-heels for Nasrin in a way that Nasrin might not be about her—Nasrin cares for her, but I got the impression it was in a more egoistical, “I like who I am when Sahar is around me” kind of way. Yet I don’t think it would be fair to write Nasrin off as shallow versus Sahar; we simply don’t get access to Nasrin’s thoughts or feelings beyond what Sahar reports to us.

There are so many other types of love present here as well. Sahar’s father clearly loves her, yet his love his attenuated by grief over Sahar’s mother. A significant portion of this book involves how Sahar expresses her dissatisfaction with her father while at the same time tries to understand her own role in her relationship with him. We see their relationship change as the novel progresses and as both make an effort, although in Sahar’s case she is distracted by her overall plot. Similarly, Reza loves Nasrin in an unrequited sense and perhaps more so in the way one loves the idea of a person instead of the actual person behind that idea. Finally, Ali loves Sahar as a cousin, even going so far as to offer to take her to Turkey.

The freedoms (or lack thereof) in Iran are of central importance to the novel. Sahar’s “solution” to being with Nasrin makes sense when you consider the cultural context—not just the Iranian government’s stances on being gay versus trans, but also just the very binary and gendered nature of Iranian society. We see this at every turn, from the expectations around how women dress (and how these are enforced, or the spectre of enforcement that looms over everyone) to the expectations about how men and women from different families interact. As not only a woman but a trans woman, I had a lot of complex thoughts as I read this book. Some were simply about the differences in the freedoms I have here in Canada versus in Iran. It might seem at first glance that the Iranian government’s funding of medical transition is a good thing, but it seems to me to be a poisoned chalice.

I won’t mince words: the portrayal of Sahar exploring transition and the nature of being transgender in Iran made me uncomfortable at times. I suspect it is supposed to make every reader uncomfortable, but as someone who is actually going through transition herself right now, the way Farizan bluntly discusses a lot of the medical aspects of transition was a lot. I don’t mean this as criticism but perhaps more as warning or caution for other trans people who read If You Could Be Mine.

Overall, I think Farizan does a good job of portraying trans people’s struggles sympathetically. This isn’t really a book about being trans or trans issues. Sahar is clearly cis, and her plot to transition is just that—a scheme that’s supposed to get her the life she wants; at every turn, Farizan makes it clear to us that this is in fact a huge mistake, that transition is not right for Sahar. There is a long tradition in literature of cross-dressing as a form of deception to help a protagonist achieve their goals, and in some ways this has contributed to trans people not being taken seriously. So perhaps that is also a reason for my discomfort with the book’s plot. However, that’s not what is happening here. This isn’t a farce in which Sahar dresses as a man and attempts to court Nasrin on the sly. She is exploring literal transition to being a man, to do so openly so that she can marry Nasrin in front of everyone. That’s a very different idea. And it’s the disconnect between what Sahar wants versus what is best for her as a person (acknowledging she is indeed cisgender and gay) that powers the conflict of this story.

Where the book falters, it’s usually a result of its short length and its style. There were so many places I wished that the book had gone deeper. Sahar’s plot is wild on its surface, and I wish Farizan had given it more time to unfurl and more conversations between Sahar and others, particularly Nasrin. Nasrin features very little in the last part of the book until the end; there’s an emotional moment where Nasrin understands what Sahar is proposing to do, but there isn’t much payoff in terms of what comes from that conversation.

As for the ending … without going into spoilers, this is where the book balances on a knife’s edge between tragedy and hope. I think one can read it either way; I personally prefer the tragic aspect because I think it makes for a more rewarding overall perspective on the story. But Farizan also does her best to remind us that there is hope. It is, alas, unrealistic to think Sahar and Nasrin could alone topple the homophobia that is embedded in Iranian law. But Farizan acknowledges very explicitly that making something illegal does not stamp it out, that there are a great many queer Iranians who are doing their best to flourish despite the oppression they face. And that, I will admit, is a reason for hope.

Ultimately, If You Could Be Mine was a thought-provoking novel. I wish it had gone further, tried to do a little more, been willing to claim more of my time and energy. But it doesn’t, and I’ll conclude that what it does manage to accomplish is still pretty good.

Originally posted on Kara.Reviews, where you can easily browse all my reviews and subscribe to my newsletter.

Creative Commons BY-NC License
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,084 reviews17.5k followers
April 2, 2017
3 stars. If You Could Be Mine is a story of love and cultural values in Iran.

This is definitely an important, relevant story, and I applaud Sara Farizan for writing it. She handles both transphobia and homophobia well here, making clear the difference between being trans and transitioning for the purpose of hiding your sexuality.

In terms of character work, this is generally a success. The protagonist, Sahad is developed and interesting. Unfortunately, her love interest, Nasrin, was selfish and naive. I never truly believed them as a couple; I got no sense that they were in love. But to be quite honest, I'm not sure how much you were supposed to. I think the book was trying to be more of an exploration of the protagonist than about her relationship, which is a good thing. I just wanted something more from the secondary main character.

Recommended to some degree for importance, but not a must-read.
Profile Image for Christina (A Reader of Fictions).
4,230 reviews1,650 followers
August 13, 2013
If You Could Be Mine falls into two much-needed categories of YA: GLBT and non-white. As such, I really wanted to read it, and I'm glad I did. Farizan's debut has a fresh narrative voice, one that has a very non-western feel, while still being open and clear. Set in Iran, Farizan tackles first love, being different, friendship, and homosexuality with honesty and heart.

The plot of If You Could Be Mine, while not melodramatic or action-packed, is enthralling. I, for one, love being able to take a journey to another culture in my reading, something that I don't get to do enough. In my experience, a lot of the non-western novels I've read (generally aimed at adults) tend to be unremittingly depressing, but Farizan retains lighter moments and keeps the tone fairly bright while still capturing the restraints that Iranian society puts onto Sahar and Nasrin.

Sahar has loved Nasrin for over ten years, and wanted to marry her. Soon Sahar will be heading off to university, assuming she passes her exams, and Nasrin, who Sahar always hoped would wait for her, is marrying a young doctor. Feeling both betrayed and determined, Sahar would do anything to keep Nasrin with her, beautiful Nasrin who makes Sahar feel more special and confident just by returning her affection. Being homosexual is in Iran a serious crime, one punishable by death, but, for Nasrin, Sahar would risk anything; Nasrin is more practical and more used to a comfortable life.

Since Nasrin cannot be convinced to call the wedding off just for love of Sahar, other plans have to be made. Through her gay cousin Ali, Sahar meets a bunch of gay and transgender people living in Iran. Now, oddly, Iran embraces transgender people and even helps finance the gender reassignment surgeries. In this, Sahar sees hope. By changing who she is can she have everything that she wants? The fact that Sahar would alter herself this way when she has always felt like a woman, all of that for a girl, is startling and terrifying. The harsh laws of society make gender reassignment seem like the only solution to be able to remain with the person Sahar loves.

Farizan does all of this very well, because she keeps the book non-preachy. There's not really a sense of judgment. At most, there's disappointment in those who do not try for what they want, but that feeling of disappointment is aimed more at the unforgiving society than the people themselves. While everyone doesn't come out in a good light, perhaps none really do, no one is demonized either.

I think what held me back from loving and really connecting with If You Could Be Mine was Sahar. I sympathize with Sahar and her narrative voice fits her, but she's a bit...empty. Sahar's young and hasn't really developed to much of a self yet, having always been all about keeping Nasrin happy. She doesn't have an incredibly strong personality, and her desperate need to be with Nasrin, despite the fact that Nasrin had gotten engaged without telling her, was something which I really could not relate to in the least.

An impressive debut, If You Could Be Mine tackles tough and unique subject matter with openness and a lack of judgment. Those looking for more YA set in other cultures and/or glbt YA must get their hands on this one.
Profile Image for Rose.
1,872 reviews1,055 followers
October 19, 2013
Sara Farizan's "If You Could Be Mine" is both an illuminating and frustrating read, if I'm reflecting upon the experience. No doubt in my mind it's a beautifully told story, and I found myself immersed in the brief read. But I'll admit my frustration came with the naivete of the characters and some dimensions of the emotional conviction rather than the outcome of the story.

The story revolves around the forbidden lesbian romance between Nasrin and Sahar as they reside in Iran. Things become complicated when Nasrin is set to wed a man in his 30s. Sahar is confused, desperate, and torn from the news. She wants to do everything she can to remain with Nasrin, even sacrifice the prospects of her future, even explore the possibility of changing her gender just to have more power, more say in her relationship with Nasrin. She gets advice from her gay cousin, meets a transsexual friend, and comes to understand that the world she lives in doesn't accept her identity, though she has people who encourage her to remain true to who she is.

This is not so much a romance as it is a coming to terms story. Sahar and Nasrin are both very complicated characters and there were many times I thought their fatal flaws frustrated me, but it was realistic. I don't know if it pulled me in as much as it could've though - I though it lacked a bit of more urgent conviction for the nature of their secret encounters, for the consequences of them possibly getting caught, for even the moments when Sahar sincerely considers undergoing gender surgery. It felt like something was lacking, but I couldn't quite put my finger on the matter for what it was.

I did ultimately like the story on an overarching note, though. I thought it was an honest portrayal of the two girls and ultimately Sahar does grow to accept her realities for what they are and mature over the course of the narrative in some measures, though it saddened me that the measures didn't work for her in the way she wanted. I think Sara Farizan's an author I'd like to watch in the future to see more of her work, and "If You Could Be Mine" is a work that's worth perusing to see the ups and downs and identity issues of two girls who love each other in secret.

Overall score: 3/5 stars

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Algonquin Books.
Profile Image for Mel González.
464 reviews64 followers
October 12, 2016
“Everyone in my family always spares one another's feelings. It leaves little room for honesty.”

I'm so sad I didn't like this book that much because in the great scheme of things I found it extremely interesting and I learned so many things about Iranian culture, laws and society but I wasn't happy with the main story, I wasn't invested in it at all and the main character and her love interest were so flat and annoying, especially her love interest. I just didn't find it realistic that Sahar would go through everything she goes through for someone who treats her like shit, especially with that ending. It's not that they shouldn't be girlfriends but they shouldn't even be friends. Maybe I would have believed in them a little more if the author would have shown more of their relationship in the past but we're supposed to believe in it with only a few lines.

I would say it's worth reading if you're interested in these things but I wouldn't pick it up if you don't like romance centred books because sometimes the issues that were presented were left in the background to talk about how much this girl was pinning for her best friend. It was hard for me to rate this book because even though I didn't particularly enjoyed the story line nor the writing style, I could see so much potential and I would give it more stars if it would have delivered what I was expecting but in general I felt very "meh" about this book.

Honestly, it's hard to see why these things are important and why she would go through everything she goes through when you're not rooting for the main couple because you think their relationship is unhealthy and all the time I was expecting for it to be said, for the main character to realise that Nasrin wouldn't sacrificed herself for her but she never realised it and the ending left me wanting so much more from this story. Also, it didn't make sense for Sahar to be so smart but when she was looking for information on the gender reassignment operation, she wouldn't look for more information and she kept talking about things like she knew what she was talking about when it was obvious she didn't even know her own body. I don't know, overall I believe this had lots of potential but it was never delivered.
Profile Image for BookCupid.
1,000 reviews68 followers
January 4, 2015
There is nothing more hurtful than loving someone who can't love you back.

In Sahar's case, it's more complicated than that. Nasrin and her have been lovers since their lifelong friendship turned into something more. But life in Tehran impedes them from expressing their love publicly. Now that Nasrin is about to be married, Sahar grows frenzied, and the only solution she can find to saving their love is a sex reassignment surgery.

Farizan turned a forbidden love story into a debate about how far we are willing to compromise our values for love. Sahar is against adultery, but a sex change is considerable? She meets Parvern, a transgender boy who went through the surgery and together they discuss several LGBT themes.

A short contemporary story that makes you realize how pointless a relationship looks when only one person is willing to sacrifice to sustain it.
Profile Image for elise (the petite punk).
403 reviews118 followers
May 26, 2021
Definitely a good story, although I probably would have enjoyed it a bit more a few years ago. There was just a bit too much longing and sadness for me. I love a good book on pain and suffering but I just couldn’t connect with the characters that much. There was not much of an explanation on why this forbidden romance was so strong, so worth giving up anything for. Otherwise, it was interesting. I just wish we got some more depth into the characters’ pasts.
Profile Image for Janani.
315 reviews72 followers
February 12, 2017
I'm having many conflicted feelings about this book. I disliked Nasrin, and the entire time even from Sahar's POV I thought she was constantly annoyed with her, and Nasrin didn't even have any redeemable qualities significant enough for me to support Sahar's love for her.

I cannot speak to the exact nuances of the experiences of all trans people, but the characters here seemed like a monolith and it left me very confused and uncomfortable that they were cast so one-dimensionally.

The ending is sad, but believable, and I appreciate that the book ended the way it did, given the elaborate scene setting that occurred throughout the book.

I'd like to add that even though I grew up and am from the Middle East, the country I grew up in is super neutral and conservative but not a dictatorship. I am aware of this privilege, which is why I am conflicted about feeling uncomfortable about the character choices/beliefs in this book.
Profile Image for Darlene.
1,696 reviews168 followers
March 20, 2015
This should be required reading for everyone. This is the kind of thing my teachers should have given the class back in high school rather than Lord of the Flies or The Great Gatsby, and other male dominated books that I found did not relate to my life in any way, nor give me any insight into what real life was for others. The depth of this book comes from a soul who lives in a country ruled by misogynistic males, who prize their women for what a woman can do for them. Those who follow a religion written by the same type of misogynists.

The main character of this story is an example of the least of the least people. She discovers when she is 10 that she is in love and wants to marry her best friend. When she tells her mom that fact her mother tells her it's a sin and never to speak of it again. So she becomes spiritually and emotional alone. Even the person she loves denies her hope of continuing a relationship into adulthood.

If You Could Be Mine includes other LGBTQ beings and how they deal with the issues even our own American counterparts deal with, but in Iran and that part of the world, the bigotry is even deeper. Sara Farizan has written a believable story and opened our eyes to the plight of our Iranian sisters. I think that fiction is often easier to deal with than any other media. It is the next best thing to climbing inside another person and finding out how it is to live someone else's life. Isn't that how Reality TV started? We all are curious as to how others live.

I was surprised by the ending. I wanted more, yet could see it was a more realistic ending. I wish for a part two to see what happened next. Not that we were left on a cliffhanger, but because of loving the character so much I want to see more about this character's life as an adult.

Please read this if you get the chance. It is free through Kindle Unlimited. But I plan to buy the Kindle and Audible versions when I get the chance. It is worth a second read.
354 reviews106 followers
November 21, 2017
3.5/5 stars. I thought this book was somewhere between okay and really like it. I lobed how diverse it was. I loved how we were able to see what it is like to live in Iran. I wasn't a fan of Narin, she annoyed me and acted like a spoiled brat. I didn't like that Sahar was will became a man for Nasrin even though she never feels like a man. all she ever feels is that she is a woman who happens to like other women.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,356 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.