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Sway With Me

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Arsalan has learned everything he knows from Nana, his 100-year-old great-grandfather. This includes the fact that when Nana dies, Arsalan will be completely alone in the world, except for his estranged and abusive father. So he turns to Beenish, the step-daughter of a prominent matchmaker, to find him a future life partner. Beenish’s request in return? That Arsalan help her ruin her older sister’s wedding with a spectacular dance she’s been forbidden to perform.

Despite knowing as little about dancing as he does about girls, Arsalan wades into Beenish’s chaotic world to discover friends and family he never expected. And though Arsalan’s old-school manners and Beenish’s take-no-prisoners attitude clash every minute, they find themselves getting closer and closer—literally. All that’s left to realize is that the thing they both really want is each other, if only they can get in step.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published November 2, 2021

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Syed M. Masood

4 books298 followers

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5 stars
176 (29%)
4 stars
224 (37%)
3 stars
152 (25%)
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33 (5%)
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9 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 142 reviews
Profile Image for Fanna.
992 reviews505 followers
November 12, 2021
Refreshing. Entertaining. Humorous. More of a coming-of-age than a romance, this contemporary fiction manages to hold one’s attention through emotional facets amidst the fun of a desi wedding and the distinctive, strong personalities of desi characters.

Sway With Me is a coming-of-age YA romantic comedy featuring Muslim Pakistani-American characters.

Having spent all his life like an old soul submerged in books and distanced from a world that fellow teenagers easily fit into, Arsalan is worried about the loneliness that will soon cloud over him after his aged great-grandfather will inevitably leave. When his abusive alcoholic father is expected to enter his peaceful abode, the traditional and shy Arsalan opens up to the idea of an arranged marriage. Now all he wants is a matchmaker.

consider reading this review on my blog!

Luckily, Beenish’s stepmother is one and hopefully Beenish has thereby caught on a few ways to set up a match. So a deal is made: she will help him find a future life partner and he, in turn, will perform a dance with her. But Arsalan isn’t much of a dancer and Beenish isn’t truthful about the risk of performing at her older sister’s wedding.

With a plot that is both refreshing and entertaining, the characters are allowed a great canvas to paint themselves against. With Arsalan’s studious personality often projecting him as an old-fashioned and quiet guy who turns to facts and rationality at every turn, he might take some time to sneak into the readers’ hearts but once he does, the kind boy who has been through a lot will make a place for himself.

Beenish as a love interest stands out with her intensely opinionated and fiercely rebellious personality that complements Arsalan through a subtle grumpy x sunshine romance trope. While the hilarious and heartwarming banter keeps the reader excitedly engaged, the romantic strings aren’t played with great intensity—not necessarily a critique if one prefers to gravitate more towards the endearing and touching individual story lines than the romance.

It’s the simple yet effective writing that establishes every side character with as much essence as Arsalan and Beenish. And it’s the same writing that turns this prose into an honest, philosophical, and religiously responsive narration. Unfiltered, unconventional thoughts are well presented through a diverging and diverse lens as tradition and culture are contemplated. The themes of family and friendship are smoothly integrated in a story where community and individualism is both appreciated and questioned.

Despite some aspects remaining under-explored, from the dance to certain familial relationships, Sway With Me does make one ponder over who matters the most to us, the timelessness of elderly love, being a misfit in a generation that runs on references, and the essence of finding someone in life who despite being different feels like home.

↣ an early digital copy received via participation in a blog tour.
Profile Image for zainab.
154 reviews63 followers
October 31, 2021
No absolutely no , this was one of my anticipated releases and this is not what I anticipated. This book started off really well and I liked all the characters introduced until to the point where I just couldn't handle this book . The whole plot was just one whole mess . Where they were Arshalan was really dumb and naive who just used big words and bookish facts to mask it . And Beenish really carried the book on her shoulders.

And now about the thing that made me the angriest and that is the Muslim representation, I never really say an own voice book has bad rep but this one just made me furious , the author was continously trying to villinize the religion and showing how it's either extremist who are cruel or people who don't follow at all and they are lenient, I just couldn't handle after a point. I get every individual has their opinions and experiences with the community but watching the author give barely any good parts to the religion or characters who really follow it was really the last blow for me . I hope the author change up things in the final copy because it's a really bad rep considering how little we already have for the community.

trigger warnings : abuse , parental abuse , death of a parent.
Profile Image for Muffinsandbooks.
1,056 reviews742 followers
February 7, 2023
C’était si cuuuuuute. J’ai adoré les personnages, notamment Arsalan qui est assez atypique avec son côté vieux jeu, mais hyper attachant. En réalité, tous les personnages sont incroyables et j’ai adoré cet aspect de « found family » qui s’installe au fil des pages. C’est doux, c’est beau, c’est un coup de cœur .

TW : maltraitance, relation toxique, deuil d’un parent.
Profile Image for Erin Hahn.
Author 7 books971 followers
March 16, 2021
Masood wrote my favorite debut of 2019 (MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE) and after reading SWAY WITH ME, has quickly become my favorite YA rom com author. SWM is funny, smart, tender and sweetly romantic. I can't wait to read more!
Profile Image for Elizabeth Grace.
99 reviews1 follower
February 6, 2022
Objectively, it was pretty good, and there were definitely parts that made me smile. But while reading this, I couldn’t stop thinking about how tired I am of religion being villainized in books. Of course everyone has their own experiences, so I’m sure this book is impactful and empowering to some, but it just left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. Idk.
Profile Image for belle ☆ミ (thisbellereadstoo).
1,724 reviews137 followers
June 6, 2022
rep: muslim, desi

instead of the female lead in this romance novel, we are introduced to the story in arsalan’s perspective as a boy who was raised as a gentleman and a lover of words. arsalan doesn’t blend into the crowd with his fashion style and his gentlemanly ways were taught by his great grandfather, an eccentric man as well. they are both philosophical men with interesting viewpoints in life, religion, and events. nana is basically very old school and lives in the past; he uses cassette tapes, read newspapers, doesn’t have a mobile phone etc.

in exchange for beenish’s help in finding him a girlfriend, arsalan will train and dance with her for a competition, which turns out to be her sister’s wedding. because of some history in the family, beenish decided that she will rebel this way. i won’t speak on the representation within this book for it’s accuracy since i don’t identify as muslim nor desi. there were many conversations on beenish parts when she talks about that.

”sometimes it feels like who you are isn’t enough.”

arsalan’s contend with staying with his great grandfather, but news of his alcoholic, abusive father’s return forced him to face the future and confront the past actions of his parents. arsalan is worried for nana and would do anything for him. i loved the relationship between nana and arsalan. while they don’t outright say they love each other, their interactions just shows that they care a lot for one another.


”arsalan. you two aren’t children anymore.”
”it isn’t like that. it’s a toy adults can enjoy.”
nana raised his eyebrows. “that seems inappropriate and forward.”


”i hope you realize, young man, that if i have failed you, such failure was born not of neglect or apathy but came from a place of caring.”
”i love you too, nana.”
”well, there is no need to get sentimental, i’m sure.”

another thing, beenish is a fiery girl and i loved it. when her father, stepmother, and sister’s future-in-laws stipulated that beenish’s mother cannot be at the wedding to see her daughter off, beenish came up with an idea. she’s going to dance at the wedding because that was what her mother is about, and the main reason why qirat and beenish’s mother was uninvited. i loved that she knew what she wanted and went for it even if it meant stirring things up and making herself look bad in the eyes of others for the sake of her sister and mother.

overall, this was a really heartwarming book about oneself’s growth and all about family whether it’s blood-related or not.
Profile Image for Celia.
Author 7 books487 followers
January 3, 2022
If you're on the lookout for a cute YA book, look no further. Syed's signature charming writing shines in this story. I read somewhere that is a retelling of She's All That, but I didn't quite see that but looking back I may have if I'd known beforehand. Since I'm not Muslim, I can't comment on the accuracy of the rep, but I trust the author knows his stuff.

What really stood out to me was the male POV and how much I instantly fell into it. I seem to have always had a hard time connecting with male protagonists written in the first person, but this one felt easy. But I did have a hard time believing Arsalan was so out of touch with modern tech. I mean, he didn't even have a tv in the living room nor did he own a phone. I know a lot of people in my generation and older seem to be annoyed by the world's reliance on technology, but this is how the world is and we all have to change with it. His character was cute and quirky, but at times felt as though he'd traveled into the future from the 1800s.

I loved the dancing aspect and the generational relationships but felt the story to be a bit too jumbled at times especially when it hit a dark note.

Overall, Sway with Me will appeal YA fans and especially desi readers!

Thanks, NOVL, for the arc in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Alicia.
1,272 reviews56 followers
March 5, 2022
I didn't find this funny. This book was kinda just mean to every person and community it represented.
I know characters are always some form of stereotype and some aspects wind up embellished and over emphasised, and that this was intended as a gender swapped She's All That, but it just portrayed everyone horribly. It was pretty nasty and not at all a rom-com.
That said, it has great character growth, and I liked the different relationships it portrayed. Beans was a lot of fun, I could have used more of her snark.
Profile Image for Amani.
374 reviews35 followers
October 29, 2021
Pakistani Muslim rom-com desi book!! Ahh tis the wedding season and Arsalan and Beenish! Review will be up on my Bookstagram account close to the publication date (and I’m also a teacher).
Profile Image for Syeda Hina Zeynep.
15 reviews4 followers
June 8, 2023
Indeed, "Sway with Me" is another remarkable masterpiece by Syed M. Masood . I am deeply influenced by the author's writing style. Unlike many other authors, Syed M. Masood skillfully captures the essence of the characters presented in the book. "Sway with Me" is a superb work that makes an impact thanks to its wit, charm, and astute critique. Syed M. Masood is a well-known author of modern literature thanks to his enduring gift for narrative. This moving and engaging book will enthrall readers, and they will be eager to see what the author has in store for us next.

Similar to his previous works, "The Bad Muslim Discount" and "More Than Just a Pretty Face," "Sway with Me" is a captivating young adult romantic comedy. It is engaging, hilarious, and lighthearted. The story revolves around Arsalan Nizami, a 17-year-old boy also known as Niz by Diamond/Heera Khan. He embarks on a journey to find a wife/partner to avoid feeling lonely if his 100-year-old great grandfather passes away. In his pursuit, he reaches out to Beenish Siraj, his classmate, whose stepmother is a matchmaker. In exchange for a good matchmaking recommendation, Beenish asks Arsalan to be her dance partner and ruin her sister's marriage to save her from her narcissistic fiancé. Arsalan, a nerdy character with poor communication skills, accepts Beenish's proposal and that's where his life takes a turn. Beenish Siraj makes an effort to change him, and he reconciles the relationship between Beenish and her mother, Aiza (also known as Aiza Aunty). Meanwhile, Arsalan tries to protect his great grandfather's house, which is now owned by his abusive father.

Throughout the book, there are several instances that prompt profound reflection. Some Muslim readers may feel that Syed's portrayal of Islam is inaccurate and lacks integrity in the characters associated with it. Personally, I believe it is important to address this issue. However, there are thousands of people who think that questioning one's beliefs is wrong. Nonetheless, it should be the norm to observe and delve into the psychology behind these matters. It is unfortunate that people interpret religion according to their own preferences, bending the rules as they see fit. This theme is evident in the book. From a Muslim perspective, both individuals who don't pray five times a day but fulfill other obligations and those who pray five times a day but neglect other obligations are equally wrong. There shouldn't be an overwhelming amount of complaints about this disregard for religious rigidity.

For instance, when Zeeshan Nizami admitted to feeling like Nuayman ibn Amr and struggling with alcoholism, it resonated with many readers who face similar issues. Diamond Khan's response made it highly relatable:
"Obviously, bro, you know that drinking alcohol is prohibited in Islam. The problem for Nuayman was that he couldn't stop. He'd drink and he'd be punished. He'd keep drinking and he'd keep getting punished. One time after this happened, one of the Prophet's other friends basically said: Curse Nuayman. When will he stop drinking?" "To which Muhammad replied," Nana chimed in, "Do not curse him, for I know nothing of him except that he loves Allah and his Messenger." "And in the end," Diamond finished, "the Prophet has said that a man is with the ones he loves." "‘A man is with the ones he loves,'" Nana repeated, "says Muhammad. Will you not heed your Prophet?"

Additionally, when Arsalan shared his thoughts with Qirat, his physics teacher and Beenish's sister, about standing against abusive relationships rather than enduring them, he beautifully expressed:
"The thing is that there are people in our lives who are neither stars nor the planets swaying around them. They are black holes. These people try to exert so much control over us that they begin to crush us. They absorb all our light and leave us with nothing. It would be best to avoid people like that, I think, if we can."

Honestly, the ending could have been better like how could Zeeshan Nizami get away with everything he done and Sham being a pain in butt. Its 4/5 for me !

"Sway with Me" is a must-read for young adults and beyond due to Syed M. Masood's depiction of complex characters and his capacity to address significant social and cultural themes within the context of a heartwarming and hilarious novel. It serves as a reminder of the importance of empathy, self-discovery, and the search for sincere connections in a society that frequently seeks to define us.

Profile Image for Elevetha .
1,769 reviews168 followers
February 9, 2022
The cover would seem to indicate that there is lot more of a focus on dancing than there really is in this book. Honestly, the overarching themes of the book deal more with religion (Islam), abuse and loss, and finding the beauty in life despite heavy or unfortunate events.

I don't know much about Muslims/the Islamic religion but the manner in which it is presented or the way in which these Muslims live their faith (or don't, as the case may be)... I don't think I would be happy with the presentation if I was a member of that faith. If I switch out Muslim for Catholic, and replace all the religious talk to something that correlates with my faith, I wouldn't love the representation. I cannot speak for Muslim readers, obviously, but that's my take on it from an outside perspective. And here's why. (skip to the bolded heading below to skip over my lengthy religion talk)

Nana has raised Arsalan to be a religious skeptic, to know his faith and religion but not to practice it. Nana prefers to look for wisdom wherever it can be found (a good quality), but at the detriment of ignoring his religion.

Arsalan identifies with being a Muslim, though he specifies that he is a nominal one, but he still STRONGLY identifies with the culture of his faith because it shaped the lens in which he views the world. I understand this to a small degree, and respect that he clarifies that he isn't practicing, but at the same time, theoretically, if one was born and raised very poor, being in need of housing/food/necessities in their youth, thus their status shaped the lens in which they viewed/view the world, that doesn't mean that if they are able to change their financial situation and become, say, actually wealthy, that they still continue to call themselves "poor". I realize money and religion are vastly different but it doesn't make sense to me, how non-practicing members of religions still cling to their religion when they don't care enough about it to live it. Good to know this is not only a problem in the Catholic faith, but it's still strange.

We have Arsalan's father; an abusive alcoholic who is basically a human personification of shit. Ah, but he prays five times a day and takes the "holier than thou" stance because of it. He has fits of religious zeal, and generally "appears" to take his faith more seriously, even though he's obviously not living it either.

We have Beenish's family that take their faith too far and use their religion as an excuse to shun/make a social pariah out of Beenish's mother for her immodesty. A potential in-law of the family is supposedly a "good Muslim" but again, is basically human shit. The list goes on. I did have a hard time figuring out where Beans is in her faith, as she flouts certain rules or social ideas but overall is probably closer to an average member of the faith than most. But then I feel like the role of religion in her life was just less talked about than the other characters. Then there is Diamond, who appears to be a practicing Muslim and is genuinely (especially by the end of the book) a good friend and was my favorite character of the whole thing. He can be a bit odd, always referring to himself in the third person, but I couldn't help but love him a little when he follows Arsalan to be with him when Arsalan's father comes to town.

All in all, I had a hard time deciphering what message the author wanted to convey about Islam and I didn't walk away from it with a good impression.

not about religion

The story is told from Arsalan's POV, which is unique because I haven't encountered many (any?) rom-coms told completely from the guy's perspective. My main problem with Arsalan is he is too naïve and his whole vibe is "quirky", but a bit too overdone. He was homeschooled for a number of years and is attending a public school at this point in his life, but he doesn't know anything regarding media, modern phrasing, etc. He doesn't know what Instagram even is. He doesn't know the meaning of the phrase "get a room". Just super common basic things that even if you're not familiar with having USED the app/phrase/technology yourself, you at least have an awareness of what it is. It's like he lives under a rock. I know his Nana tries to live that way, not having a phone outside of a landline and no tv, etc, but he was attending public school. You CANNOT tell me he doesn't know what anything is after attending a public school.

The actual plot is incredibly weak, and as stated earlier, revolves more about religion and family than it does the romance or the dancing. There are a few scenes of dancing and practicing and whatnot, but overall, very little. Which is not to say that a focus on religion or family is a bad thing, but it didn't make for a strong storyline, and also isn't how this was marketed.

I did appreciate the ending, with everyone banding together and supporting each other, despite it being a difficult choice to make, given the fallout from their families.

Tell me, my son, is life not beautiful?"
Profile Image for zoeduck.
135 reviews
January 12, 2023
this book is perfection!!!!
i didnt think i would like it until i read it and realised that it had so much emotional depth. definitely more than just a romance book but so worth it
Profile Image for Aimal (The Devils We Find).
509 reviews460 followers
March 13, 2022
Incredibly crafted characters, who were people I grew to care for very quickly. I enjoyed the various subplots, particularly Arsalan’s relationship with his father and his past traumas, Beenish’s relationship with her mother, and Qirat’s upcoming marriage to, well, an asshole. The dance aspect was the thing I was least interested in, and that took up a good chunk of the novel, hence the 3 stars. I was also not fully sold on Beenish and Arsalan’s romance, because I thought the other relationships were so solid that the romance fell flat.

No, this book doesn’t portray Islam horribly. There is an explicit, in-your-face conversation where Arsalan reflect on his discomfort around religious folks and how he can’t help it, but knows that it stems from his abuse from his father, who used Islam as a weapon, even though he was an alcoholic and a hypocrite. Over the course of the book, Arsalan learns to get closer to his community, and he begins having less negative feelings towards every mention of theology, and his best friend is a practicing Muslim. I will never fail to be amazed that a lot of these reviewers, with their unrelenting hatred for any story that isn’t a whitewashing of religious people (not even religion mind you, but its people!), continue to prove the very point that Masood has made in all his books.

I will just end by saying that I would die for Heera “Diamond” Khan.
Profile Image for tahliaisreading.
28 reviews95 followers
March 9, 2023
un grumpy x sunshine au poil mais vraiment
le mec arsalan tout mimi chouchou en mode bien esclave pour elle bien se laisse embarquer dans des plans très très foireux même bourbiers mais il ferait tout pour elle
représentation indienne et musulmane j’ai appris pleins de trucs j’ai trop kiffé !!
pour mes copines musulmanes vous pouvez le lire pendant le ramadan ya pas de smut et ya pas de péchés faits par la meuf, pas comme élite où la meuf enlève son voile pour le mec t’as capte
c’est drôle léger mignon sympa j’ai adore F O N C E Z
Profile Image for andra.
280 reviews11 followers
October 27, 2021
3.5 stars

this book was blurbed as a desi she's all that retelling (but in reverse!) and that was enough for me to gain interest in this book, especially after the trainwreck that is the new movie adaptation so honestly, you should read this instead lolll.

plotwise, it was good. the concept was fresh despite it being called a she's all that retelling. but throughout reading this, it didn't evoke a lot of emotions in me and i was left feeling flat through out, which was a shame because i really thought i was going to love this when they introduced the main characters, but a lot of their dialogues became really infuriating to read and i just couldn't care that much about the characters: except for maybe beenish and diamond. i can't speak on how good the rep is because i am not desi, so please refer to other reviewers who have reviewed this!

anyway i still standby with what i said in the beginning and i would still recommend this to people if they're looking for a cute short rom com to read, especially if you like tropes such as grumpy x sunshine!

thank you to Hodder & Stoughton and Netgalley for providing me with an e-arc for this in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Carrie.
319 reviews119 followers
January 20, 2022
if you like ya romances, do yourself a favor, and read this book.

a loose adaptation of She's All That, the characters jumped off the page, ready to tell their story. it was an emotional roller coaster. so heartfelt. I loved how the romance was built on a strong foundation of friendship. I love that the quest for romantic love led to include all forms of love. the messages in the book were moving and inspiring. and so poetic. I loved the discussions of religion and the various theories discussed throughout.

I did not expect to love this book, and while it did captivate me in the beginning, I only realized I loved it by the end.

this book deserves lots of love and I look forward to seeing the author's other work.
Profile Image for Shivani.
216 reviews8 followers
December 27, 2021
If you’ve been around, you would know that I loved Syed M. Masood’d debut book More Than Just a Pretty Face. Thus, when I heard he had a new YA Contemporary romance coming out I knew I wanted to pick it up and I’m glad that I did!

Sway With Me had the same charming storytelling and writing style that drew me to More Than Just a Pretty Face. I found AArsalan to be cute and enjoyed his relationship with his grandfather greatly. I think that relationship reminded me greatly of my own relationships with my South Asian family members in India. There were themes of respecting elders and the way that South Asian family shows love isn’t always obvious and clear.

As a reader, I found that I got to know Arsalan pretty well, but I can’t say the same for Beenish. Although she had her own backstory and relations with her mom and sister, there wasn’t a great emphasis on it so when her conflicts arose, they were solved quite quickly which wasn’t as satisfying as I had wanted it to be. With that being said, I thought the relationship that developed between her and Arsalan screams high school puppy love and it made my heart happy whenever they had moments together.

All in all, I’m happy that I was given the chance to read Syed’s upcoming release and I recommend you all check out Sway With Me as well as his other works especially if you’re looking for some relatable South Asian representation.

Characters: 7/10
Atmosphere: 8/10
Writing Style: 7/10
Plot: 5/10
Intrigue: 6/10
Logic: 6/10
Enjoyment: 7/10

Rating: 6.6 or 3 stars
Profile Image for Brinley.
1,016 reviews68 followers
November 30, 2021
DNF at Page 150

I really wanted to love this one. Really, really wanted to love it. But it ended up being something I dreaded reading. I'll probably give it another chance when I'm more in the mood, but I doubt my problems with it will disappear.

My biggest problem with this was definitely Arsalan. His only character trait was being out of touch with the world. I mean, he was writing with a quill at school. He didn't have a phone or computer at home. He wore his dead uncle's school uniform every day. I was fine with this at first, it was quirky, and somewhat cute. By the midpoint though, it had gotten ridiculous. It lost its charm, and instead was frustrating. It was so unrealistic. In a world that was otherwise contemporary, having a kid wandering around who acted like he was from the 15th century drove me insane.

Other than that, there wasn't really anything to read this one for. It was bland. The side characters were bland. The plot was nonexistent. Nothing about it stood out. I didn't expect perfection, but I did expect to enjoy this one.
Profile Image for Starr ❇✌❇.
1,210 reviews121 followers
October 27, 2021
I received an ARC from Edelweiss
TW: mentioned alcoholism, abusive parent, mentioned physical abuse, mentioned fatal car accident, fire based abuse, slut shaming, cultural misogyny, mentioned violence against women

Arsalan has been kept safely from the outside world since his great-grandfather, Nana, took him in. But having no one outside an old man to keep him company means being all alone on once Nana is gone. What starts as a hope that his classmate, Beans, can get her matchmaking step-mother to help him ends up as a transaction- she'll find a girlfriend for him herself, and he'll be her dance partner. Nevermind that Arsalan can't dance, and that Beans seems miles off from the matchmaking type. When he gets word that his abusive father may be coming back into the picture, and is threatening to kick him and Nana out of their house, and when Beans' real plan come to light, what started out as a simple hope begins to look too complicated to end well.

It's rare in YA currently to find a book- especially a romance- with a male main character, so I'm glad to see Arsalan on the page. It's also nice, of course, to see the representation here with an entirely Indian-American cast.

The abuse arc also elevates this story. This is, above all else, a romance, but the heavier plot of Arslan's abusive father and the way that colors his childhood and his grief about his mother is interesting, realistic, and adds some more depth to the otherwise light and fairly unrealistic plot.
There's also an extra layer talking about how sexualized women are treated, and the way that their more traditionally culture punishes even those women's families, which helped flesh out more meaning for the story as well.

For a romance, I think it was fine. I didn't entirely buy it, their chemistry isn't all that built up, and I wasn't a big fan of Arsalan throughout so I wasn't all hat invested in his feelings for Beans or vice versa. But if you like romance in general, this book is pretty straight forward in that area, and I'm sure a lot of people will like it.

I also didn't really like any of the characters. As I said, Arsalan was irritating to me, due to the unbelievable way he acted and talked- I don't see how he could have been that far removed from the modern world, and the gag wore thin quickly. Though I liked Diamond in general, he's an over the top, flat "himbo with a heart of gold" character. Which isn't a bad thing, but he never got beyond that inflated cliche. And everyone else fell into stock characters in sometimes obnoxious ways as well. The character I liked the most was Beans, but she too felt a bit overdone.

As for the set up for the plot, that was hard to buy into as well. From the matchmaking premise, I'd hoped for some actual matchmaking, or at least more of a focus on it, but it disappears shortly after introducing it. It's a bit unrealistic anyway, but it could have been fun. The dance partner aspect, and then the convoluted secret plans attached to that, leading back to why she picked him, and all of that just felt messy to the point of being needless.

I liked parts of this story, and there's nothing wrong with the plot, but it felt flat to me.
Profile Image for Sheena Marie.
101 reviews30 followers
September 9, 2021
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this eArc in exchange for an honest review! All thoughts and opinions are my own.

This was such a cute romcom! Not too long, so I managed to read it all at one go. This book put a refreshing take on the grumpy x sunshine trope, and having desi rep is always a win for me!

The two main characters are both teenagers, but wise beyond their years. I was very entertained by Arsalan's thought process, and as an English/History nerd myself, I burst out laughing at a lot of his inner monologues. He is very naïve, obedient, and an absolute gem of a person. Arsalan Nizami is an old soul, who reminds me a lot of a time traveler struggling to fit in. Beenish 'Beans' Siraj is his fiery counterpart, who isn't afraid to speak her mind and be heard. She's somewhat of a rebel, who does things her own way and doesn't look back. Beans exudes humour, and Arsalan often takes humour literally, fighting them with facts. Naturally, the banter between Arsalan and Beans was magic! Also, we have Diamond, who is the neutral party between the two, always there to support them. I think that everybody needs a Diamond in their life.

I really like how this book touched on a lot of serious household issues while still remaining somewhat lighthearted. The harsh realities of being a brown person were brought up - how perception of others is expected to take precedence over our own feelings, being done as your told without being allowed to voice out, "tough" love from parents, submissive wives, gender inequality - and I appreciate the mentions of such issues. I also like the nods to religion and other historical figures, all used to come up with rational thoughts, acting as a guide for when dead ends arise.

I have to admit, there were some parts where the plot plateaued, and I'd forgotten about what the goal of the story was. Based on the title, I'd expected a stronger focus on the dance. There were a lot of other elements that I'd hoped for more exploration, like Arsalan's prior relationship with his mother and Beans' passion for dance.

For me, the true star was Aiza Aunty. An icon through and through, she changed the energy of the story as soon as she appeared. She is dramatic, flamboyant, and says the most amusing things. She is the embodiment of confidence, and I wish I could be her best friend. I'm officially Aiza Aunty's number 1 fan!

Also, I would do anything for Nana. I never had the chance to be close to my grandparents, let alone my great-grandparents, so reading about Nana's relationship with Arsalan and how everyone grew to love Nana was very heartwarming. Nana says the wittiest things in complete seriousness, like the walking library he is. If Nana was hurt, I don't think I would ever be able to recover.

All in all, I did expect more, but I also really enjoyed reading Sway With Me. Looking forward to reading more works from Syed Masood!

3.5 out of 5 stars!
Profile Image for Kirin.
452 reviews27 followers
November 18, 2021
This author won me over with More Than Just a Pretty Face, and his ability to celebrate and show flaws within our desi cultures while simultaneously presenting relatable Islamic experiences in a romantic comedy.   I have been yet to determine if this YA/Teen 328 page book follows in those footsteps, or cuts a little too critically and close on the Islamic presentation.  Undoubtedly the story is hard to put down, culture and Islam are present, but I don't know what the lingering taste of Islam would be for a non-Muslim reading the book.  Would they see the faith separate from those that practice or actively don't practice, would Muslim readers?  Literature is quickly showing how Muslims are not a monolith, but I worry that that nuance might be lost in this particular book, and the takeaway would be far more stereotype affirming, than critically thought provoking.  The packaging of the story is memorable characters and quality writing, even if the plot and purpose is a little shaky at times.  I admit for as much as I crave discussions on representation and twists and defined characters, this book has me at a bit of a loss on how to feel about the book overall.  I think it is possibly the first time I just haven't seen myself and my experiences mirrored at all in a book with this much Islamic content. As a reviewer it makes me feel useless, but as an American born Muslim, I kind of love the uneasiness and challenge that my head is trying to wrap itself around.  The references, the language, lust, plentiful innuendos and physical abuse make the book a solid high school and up read.

Arsalan lives with his 100 year old Nana in Sacremento.  His mother has passed away, and his father is out of the picture in Arizona as he attempts sobriety.  Homeschooled and isolated from other kids, technology, and the world around him, he suddenly finds himself in a public high school trying to make his way.  Afraid that when his Nana passes he is going to be all alone in the world, he reaches out to the stepdaughter, Beenish, of the community match maker to see if she can help him with an arranged marriage.  She agrees on one condition, he dances with her at an upcoming competition.  He agrees, but first a makeover is required and before you know it a romance is blooming.  Awkward and formal and ever the gentleman, Arsalan uncovers that there is no competition, the dancing is required to break up Beenish's sister's wedding.  The girls' biological mother was a dancer and the shame it brought on them all as it destroyed her career, her marriage, and the family has made her daughters the black sheep of the family and community.  The stepmom wants to get them out of the house as soon as possible and thus dancing of any kind is forbidden at Qirat's upcoming nuptials.  Beenish despises the groom and hopes her dancing will not only remind the family that the mom has been banned from attending the wedding, but also hopefully prevent the wedding from taking place.  As the story moves forward with learning to dance, relationships must be reconciled, friendships developed, and growing pains felt, with some sass from Nana at every turn, more than one character will have to learn to make hard decisions and accept the outcomes that result.   


Right from the start Arsalan makes it known that he is not a practicing Muslim, that he is "nominally one."  His Nana has raised him to be a skeptic, his abusive father would beat him when feeling religious and guilty for his alcohol consumption, and his deceased mother was more spiritual than disciplined.  So, for the next few chapters, whenever Islam was mentioned I would snap a picture.  Twenty pages later and dozens of pictures of text made me stop and realize that this coming of age book is not a story about Islam, but rather the characters are dealing with their own identities and Islam just happens to be present, for all of them.  Arsalan remarks how our roots shape us as he quotes hadith, ok paraphrases them, and discusses sahaba, eventually having to accept that knowledge and wisdom and truth must be recognized, even when it comes from a source that he doesn't favor.  Similarly, the most presenting tough guy, music and sports and appearance obsessed character is always hanging around the mosque, at the MSA, and encouraging Arsalan to come and pray.  The love interest calls out Muslims for their fake religiosity saying that her stepmom wears it as a fancy dress, she owns it, but takes it off when she wants.  Her father came to Islam late, and is relatively strict and conservative as a result, she is Muslim, but more culturally as she doesn't seem to have sorted it out herself.  The characters dance, which involves touching and immodest clothing, at the end they do kiss.  There is language which is noted as being course and vulgar, and there really is no "model Muslim" or any characters that want to be.  So, similarly there are no haram police commenting when the characters, as individuals seemingly step out of line.  The sister character is quote unquote religious, but I don't know if she covers, she doesn't seem to be representative of anyone other than herself and she has her own cultural family issues, so her Islam is just stated, but not explored.  Some only eat halal, that gets included but not really opined on.   It really is the first time I feel like I've read so many Muslim characters in one place that represent only themselves, which is very much real life, but also a shift in Muslim rep in literature.

The story has some foundational issues which made me laugh when reading the author's note that says he, "writes in the dark."  Meaning he doesn't know where he is going until he gets there.  I think it might show in this book more than he realizes. Aiza Aunty is shamed as scandalous because of her dancing in Lollywood (Pakistan's version of Bollywood, which is India's version of Hollywood) films.  She apparently got her sari a bit too wet in a waterfall scene, and it was too much shame to rebound from.  So why did that ruin her life? I mean any production has rehearsals, and blocking, and post editing, and retakes, why does one scene seem to fall squarely on her shoulders, every single decision maker along the way passed it through.  I'm not buying it.  I also don't buy the whole wedding is hanging on a single thread of dancing, it tries really hard to make it make sense, and by the end the reader really is just prepared to go along with it, but holding auditions, not planning to tell Qirat, really is expecting the reader to suspend reality just a tad more than the genre should be asking one to do.

The book is smart and it expects the reader to be smart.  The references the character's personas and need to be seen and loved is not always spelled out, it has to be pieced together and I love it.  The Thanksgiving scene, the misfit members of each family coming together and bonding with Nana and Arasalan is sweet, but actually really sad, and I love that it doesn't say it, it shows it.  

Of all the characters I love Diamond the most, I just wish we knew more about what motivates him.  He reads too nice and too puppy doggish and I wish we got just a bit more to see why he is the way he is.  Truly all the characters are memorable, and I'm pretty sure they will stay with me for a while.  


There is kissing, romance, crude language, lots of sexual innuendos, physical violence, physical abuse, child abuse, death, shaming, manipulation, alcohol addiction, religious zealousness, dancing, intimate dancing, body objectification, music, singing.

Profile Image for yun with books.
544 reviews212 followers
March 15, 2022
"Love those who are clear joy and wander not into the neighborhoods of despair."

[TW: mentioned child abuse, alcoholism]

Sway With Me is stolen my heart. So entertaining. Refreshing. Humorous. Distinct.
This about 17 years old desi (Pakistani) boy, named Arsalan Nizami who asked to dance with Beenish. This two characters are definitely opposite, but somehow they're building a tender and sweet romance between them.

For those who love slow-burn trope and diverse reads, this book is really FOR YOU. The book has wrote with genius and witty plot, that makes this book is soooooo good. Yes, it touched on a lot of hard topics that transcend religion and ethnicity. Some of you think Muslim as villainized in this book, but what I saw that it's hard for being Arsalan with dead mother and abusive father.
Don't be fooled by the colorful of the cover, Sway With Me carried by some heavy and triggering stuffs, but it balanced by the funny and the humor. Also, the characters of this book are all amazing and unique. Nana...is the living genius."

"Edward Norton Lorenz. The meteorologist. He discovered that small changes in initial conditions can lead to dramatic alterations in long-term outcomes."

Sway With Me always have me laughing on one page, then tearing up on the next. This hilarious and philosophical novel is the same, with the same amount of can’t-put-it-down-ness. Some reader triggers are domestics abuse and alcohol recovery. Really unusual and sweet book about a boy who learns to trust his friend and family.
Profile Image for Madhu MaBookYard -.
1,176 reviews31 followers
December 27, 2022
“I’ve found humans to not be worth the effort to get to know. Every once in a while, however, one finds exceptions to that rule.”
My Rating : 3.5/5 🌟🌟🌟✨
Funny, cliched yet heartwarming are the words I would use to describe this book. The way the main characters met was awkward, but really cute. And the author does a great job discussing mother/daughter relationships and the consequences of a woman making decisions that defies societal standards. Definitely a rollercoaster of a read!
• Favourite Lines
It wasn’t as if I didn’t like being by myself. I was used to that. But there’s something sad about stumbling upon soli‑ tude in places you don’t expect to find it. It makes you miss strangers you’ve never met and friends you’ve never had.
Besides, it was fun. Learning physics was like figuring out how the universe speaks to itself. Who isn’t interested in that?
A gentleman tries not to ask acquaintances for favors that may have to be denied. It puts them in an awk‑ ward position.” She nodded. “Right. And are you still a gentleman?” “Yes. Of course.” “Then,” she said, “you’re excused.”
“Sometimes,” I admitted. “But then I think about it and am glad she did. It may be selfish, but I do rather like existing.” “A fair point,” he conceded. “For what it is worth, I sometimes like the fact that you exist as well.
“When you’re really a little sour all the time.” “I’m sweet and sour,” she countered. “I’m a hot pot full of incredibly complex flavors.” “Crackpot is more like it,”
“That doesn’t sound like fun. I don’t much care for pain.” She grinned. “Don’t worry, Arsalan. You’ll learn to like it.”
“I’m sure you’re right, Aunty. It would have been an easier life if you’d stayed in the orbit that others wanted. But it wouldn’t have been your life at all.”
Book 86 : March 2022 / Arc / Netgalley / PRH Int
Tags : YA Contemporary, Found Family
Profile Image for Liza M..
94 reviews14 followers
November 11, 2021
I am not in the mood to criticise or roast tonight, only in the mood to praise so, although I have given this book "only" three stars, I will not dwell on the reasons why I didn't give this book a higher rating and only focus on what I liked in this book. Not the most unbiased time to write a review but hey, you have been warned.

Firstly, I love me some books about dancing. The scene where they danced to Sway We Me ? Incredible. Show stopping. Spectacular. (Okay I'm exaggerating but I really really liked it, it was a crucial moment in the book and was both sweet without being overly cheesy and therefore I really enjoyed it.) (Plus a lot of other very very nice moments where they danced.)

I also enjoyed the more philosophical aspect of the book, the questions about religion and how our religion and culture shape us, despite not being religious ourselves. These reflections were very interesting, and filled with many beautiful quotes about religion, poetry and literature. I also loved how it made science poetic, it's something I have trouble expressing but that I also feel as someone who loves science dearly. Yeah. Beautiful imagery.

Finally I liked how this book covered difficult topics. Well, some of them were quite clumsy and the biggest chunk of criticism I have would come here but I don't want to ruin my incredibly good mood so I won't tell you about them, but I did enjoy how it pictured the aftermath and the trauma that comes and stays after, well, traumatic experiences in childhood and how it can really fuck you up and how difficult it is to work on it.
Profile Image for Yara.
1,023 reviews4 followers
December 20, 2021
This book has stolen my heart. The MC's are so complex with tough pasts no child should ever have to go through, and though somewhat broken (or feeling that way), they're both so incredibly lovable. I was immediately absorbed in their story, background, what made them tick the way they did, seeing them both grow as individuals, friends, and perhaps something more, as well as seeing them slowly open up to others and allow some friends and family in and to love them.

Arsalan, our MC, comes from an American Pakistani who was raised by his hundred year old great grandfather (his mom died in a car crash a few years before, and his father abandoned him). He's been home schooled but is starting up a public school for the first time ever. It's a bit of a shock for him since he's been raised to be a gentleman, literally from someone a century old, so he's very old fashioned. He meets Beenish (Beans), our female MC, who's also American Pakistani, with a chip on her shoulder, living with a very conservative father and stepmother, though she mostly dresses in Western attire with borderline offensive tees which I found absolutely hilarious :) She's a little firecracker and I loved her. Arsalan's and Bean's relationship grows slowly but progressively, both growing as individuals while getting much needed friendship and acceptance from each other. I absolutely loved the ending. Excuse me while I go and add anything else by this author on my TBR :)

(trigger warning- off the page violent child abuse spoken of in the past).
January 17, 2022
CW: child abuse, alcoholism, toxic relationship, death of a parent, sexism

Thank you to the Novl for sending me this cute ARC that I enjoyed on the beach and read in one day! This book came out in November, so you can grab your own copy.

Despite all of the heavy topics I listed in the content warnings, this was YA romance that kept me laughing! Raised by Nana, his 100-year-old great-grandfather, Arsalan had plenty of old-fashioned mannerisms and quirks that befuddled Beans, his new friend turned love interest. Arsalan's formal way of speaking was really endearing, and Nana was a formidable, hilarious, flawed character in his own right.

Billed as a desi version of "She’s All That," I think the similarities between this book and that movie stop at the makeover scene, when Arsalan gets a haircut and some modern day clothing. There's a lot more depth here, as Arsalan and Beans push each other to be better people and support each other in the face of their difficult family situations. Even Diamond, who came off as a shallow jock when he was first introduced, played a significant role in the story and was always ready to lend a listening ear or a quote from the Quran. These friendships and romances unfolded in a way that had me grinning from ear to ear, and that ending? Bollywood-worthy. I recommend this one to any contemporary YA fan!
Profile Image for Zara.
81 reviews13 followers
April 14, 2023

this was such a pleasant surprise for me.
I had low expectations for this, considering the rep male romance authors have and the love-hate relationship I have with muslim rep...but it was actually decent.

the MC (Arsalan) was actually very sweet in a clueless kind of way and I was really rooting for him. kind of how you see a kitten taking its first steps and its so ridiculously pathetic but you want them to be able to stumble over to their food bowl. another thing I liked was the friendship between Arsalan and Diamond, it was so wholesome and sort of unexpected. I was really expecting Diamond to be this insufferable lad-type character but he was actually very insightful and thoughtful. it was really refreshing to see.

but you know what wasn't refreshing? the muslim rep.

make muslims not annoying challenge.
this is such a ridiculously common thing to do, where characters who are on their deen are always the bad guys – because what do you mean his dad, who is the most religious character in the book, is an abusive raging alcoholic????? and all the 'smart' characters think religion is a joke?????

being muslim is nice and wholesome – and I dare people to actually make it seem like it. if I wanted to hear people bashing islam, I would watch those anti-muslim tiktoks where people just shout over each other and don't actually say anything of value!!!!

ps – white people do not exist in this universe which is always interesting
Profile Image for Riddhi B..
129 reviews1 follower
October 23, 2021
Thank you to Netgalley and TBR and Beyond Tours for giving me an ARC of this book.

Ah, this was such a cute book! Since I am not a Muslim, I am not really sure how accurate the rep was, but it seemed pretty accurate to me! The author covered the too-strict muslims, the liberal muslims, the one in the middle as well.

And the character and plot development was pretty great as well!

I don't often read books from teen boy POV but this was a fun change!

I enjoyed reading Beenish and Nana the most- they were so cute, honestly! I love grumpy grandparents, Nana was one grumpy grandparent.
Arsalan wasn't one of my favourite MCs but he wasn't too bad.
The characters were honestly portrayed very well.

I love love loved this book, and would recommend all YA contemporary lovers!
Profile Image for Amanda Morris Bledsoe.
176 reviews11 followers
December 14, 2021
Really enjoyed Sway with Me, it touched on a lot of hard topics that transcend religion and ethnicity. Definitely a story about finding yourself in a world that consistently tells you who you are and how you should behave.
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