Half_GirlfriendThis is a book review. It is not addressed to the writer and does not wish to offend him or anyone. It is restricted to the plot of the book and its stark similarities to the plots of previous books of the same author. 

If you haven’t read the book, then don’t read this. It has spoilers. If you haven’t read the book and you are a Bhagat fan, I wouldn’t recommend the book to you.

A Bollywood film on paper. That is how I describe this book. The title seemed a bit intriguing, simply because of the ‘half’ attached to it. But the book didn’t engage me the way I had expected it to. I am a Chetan Bhagat fan. Definitely not one of those who believe that his writing is not good literature because of the simple language. Simple suits me. But this time, I was disappointed. Very disappointed.T

he whole concept of a student grappling with English in one of the best colleges in India was a good beginning. But it was mowed down by the typical Bhagat plot. If you were wondering what defines a typical Bhagat plot, then here it is.

The ratio of a beautiful girl to a boy in college is always restricted to a one is to five hundred or more. And surprisingly (actually not), the girl ends up falling for a guy who is definitely “not in her league”.

They meet at the Basket ball court – both of them are champions. That’s how they become best friends. They play for hours on the court and get to know each other better. Kuch kuch hota hai running through your head? A teeny-weeny bit.

The plot invariably covers more than one city. This time they traveled further – to the pubs and bars of New York.

There is always something about writing and reading in every book. Well, Surprise surprise. This time there was a slight variation. Instead of the guy, it was the girl. She maintains a diary which gives the guy profound insights of her past. She is a voracious reader too. The icing on the cake was when her favourite author was Bhagat himself.

Wait, there is more. The girl is a misfit in her family. They have no expectations from her. Her dreams are viewed as wholly unreal. She has a dark past with her father. The father is always the black sheep, I wonder why.

Frankly, the book caught my attention when it began with the death of the female protagonist. It was unusual, different and unexpected. But little did I know that the plot would fall flat with just one line that stated that she faked her illness. What might that illness be? Oh no, you didn’t think of Cancer, did you?

Just like any romantic Indian film, the girl is in love with someone but gets married to someone else. Obviously, she is anything but happy with him. The proverbial mother-in-law of Hindi-Tamil soap opera isn’t spared. She plays her part in creating havoc in the girl’s life.The rich guy living in London who swept her off her feet suddenly reveals his true colours – a drunkard who is his mother’s puppet and a member of the ‘husbands-committing-domestic-violence’ group. Oh, but there is a twist, the hero doesn’t come to her rescue and save her from her misery.

If you were wondering how the hero’s mother is, well, don’t bother finding out because she isn’t very different from Krish’s mother in 2 states. She pampers her son, disapproves of his choice of women and asks the love of his life to stay away from him. Sounds so much like a 70’s film, doesn’t it?

What I loathed most in the book, is the cheap “break-up” that took place in the whole “half girlfriend” deal. The words spoken by the hero were disgraceful and perhaps they were expected to be. But it did not fit in well with the image created of him until then.

There are a million other things to pick on. But I shall stop with this one. Visiting every pub in New York which has bands performing in them just to look for your long lost love? That’s pushing drama to a whole new level.

One, the guy has no clue of where in NY she is performing. Two, he is on an internship there after receiving a scholarship. Three, he manages to perform well even though his mind isn’t on work. And four, he finds his girl on the last day of his stay!

Did I mention Bollywood film before this? Forgive me.

There were some good parts to the book. How a top-ranking student gives up a job worth a few lakhs to work with a school in his hometown was a nice touch. Education is a standard part of Bhagat’s books. Politicians playing a role in the system is another part. Yet, the description of the schools and their terribly poor conditions was brought out well. It highlighted the current state of education in India’s villages. It tackles issues of poor infrastructure, corrupt officials, rural mind sets, teacher experience and drop out levels among students. These problems need to be brought to light to the larger public, For a popular young writer to incorporate it in his books, is a brilliant idea.

It also has a happy ending. I am all for happy endings. But a cliched one doesn’t hold good for me. If the story has to stand out, it needs to be one-of-a-kind.

What I would have liked to do is tweak the plot in tiny ways. For instance, how about a role reversal? The girl doing what the guy is usually expected to do. Or a little more insight on how he coped in college without knowing a word of English? Or perhaps, a few details on the town in Bihar and the people there, the problems they face. Even a shift from a college and work story to a school and college story would do. Anything but a same old plot.

Looking forward to something new next time. Hopefully, I won’t be disappointed.


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