Review: Enter Title Here, Rahul Kanakia

Hands up everyone who’s been on the hunt for a thoroughly Slytherin YA heroine! If that’s what you’re after, Rahul Kanaki’s Enter Title Here is the book for you.

Enter Title Here

Enter Title Here is about a girl called Reshma who is first in her class (due to a lawsuit her parents filed when the school tried to change the system by which GPA was calculated) and badly wants to get into Stanford. She’s cynical enough about the system — ever since her parents got cheated by a Silicon Valley cutthroat lady — that she believes she has to have a “hook” to overcome her mediocre SAT scores. And she decides that her hook will be an agented novel that she will write over the course of the school year, all about a studious Indian American girl like herself who gets a boyfriend, makes friends with the popular kids, and goes to parties.

White people like to think we’re all emotionless study machines. They tell themselves that their kids might not do as well in school, but at least they know how to enjoy life. Well, I’ll spend a month enjoying life and then, oh, I expect it’ll “transform” me. I learned in English class that stories often end with the character having a staggering realization: an epiphany. And I expect to have one sometime right around September 28.

By the end of the novel, I’ll turn into a whimsical girl who harvests all the possible joy from each moment and lives a carefree existence and lets the future take care of itself and all that other bullshit.

Spoilers: That’s not exactly what happens.

Enter Title Here tries less than maybe any other YA novel I’ve ever read to make its protagonist likeable. Even when Reshma gets caught screwing up, she’s mainly sorry that she got caught and will have that much more of an obstacle in the way of her success. She’s cynical about her relationships — romantic, platonic, and parental — and even more cynical about the world she lives in. She’s cynical, but she’s not wrong: The goalposts for success in high school are clear, and she’s got a keen eye on how to meet them.

Kanakia does something really sensible in this book, given what an unreliable narrator Reshma is. (She lies about a lot of stuff that we only find out about when other characters do — and then Reshma says, oh yeah, I didn’t mention that before because it wasn’t a big deal.) It can be hard to tell what Reshma’s like as a person — where she’s all talk and where she’s absolutely living the way she says she’s living — so Kanakia has sensibly included a few characters who’ve got Reshma’s number. In her interactions with Alex and George and even the slightly-pitiful Aakash (whom Reshma selects to be her temporary boyfriend), we’re able to see Reshma’s loneliness, her honesty, her intensity, and her spots of vulnerability, in ways that she’s slightly concealing from us otherwise. It’s a neat trick in what might otherwise have been a rather cold-hearted book.

Huzzah Slytherins! (I’m not a Slytherin tho, I am a Ravenclaw, but still, Slytherins get a bum rap, and I liked Reshma.)

  • Jeanne

    I wonder if Eleanor would like this book. She can be a Slytherin, although she doesn’t use her ambition to get ahead like this.

  • etudesque

    Reading your review reminds me of Kaavya Viswanathan’s plagiarism scandal. She was a high school student and an Ivy League aspirant who decides to write the book “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life” to stand out from all the other college applicants. But then she got busted, womp womp. Viswanathan must be a real-life Slytherin, ha!

    • Katy

      It made me think of that, too. But I always bought Viswanathan’s explanation that she just read Meg Cabot’s books so much that she internalized certain passages and thought they were her own. It’s not uncommon. The same thing happened to Helen Keller when she wrote her first story at the age of eleven.

      • etudesque

        Interesting! I didn’t hear about the Helen Keller one. It’s cliche, but I feel like everything that could be thought up has already been thought up in one way or another, so it’s not surprising when different people’s work start to blend together.

        • Katy

          I agree. Especially if you’re writing in a genre like YA, which has so much that’s cliched, I think it’s probably easy to start by being imitative and veer into outright copying without realizing it. I felt bad for Viswanathan at the time, and I feel bad for her if this novel is based on her, which it sounds like it is. Obviously the novel needed to get pulled, but I thought the public backlash against her was far too extreme for the kind of plagiarism this was. I think a lot of it was that she was young and hyper-successful and people were pleased to see her fail.

  • I think I heard about this one via Goodreads before it came out and was intrigued, so I’m glad to be reminded of its existence – my local public library has a copy now!

  • This sounds great, I love a YA with a difference. And hooray Slytherin protagonist (I too am a Raveneclaw, but I’m all for complex, horrible human beings, they’re interesting things to observe.)

  • Ooh, I HAVE been looking for a YA with a thoroughly Slytherin heroine. I recently realized all the POV characters in my current project are extremely Slytherin and this has made me feel much happier about Slytherinness than I was in the recent past.

  • Rachel

    I’ve been meaning to read this book since it was release. I actually do enjoy YA character that aren’t likable depending on how their character/the story is written. Thanks for sharing your review!

  • Alley

    Iiiiinteresting. And yeah, Slytherins (stop it, spellcheck, it’s a real word) need their own story of, OK, maybe not the most likable, but not eeeeevil

  • Interesting! I’ve been intrigued by the title of this one for awhile, but I didn’t have a good idea what it was about. The different perspectives sound like they’d add a lot of depth.

  • helen (a gallimaufry)

    Although my self-image is that I’m Hufflepuff, the Sorting Hat told me I was Slytherin! I’m still slightly horrified by this. I should probably read this novel. 🙂

  • Yes, Slytherins get a bum rap! My youngest daughter is a Slytherin (I say this like it’s a true meaningful fact), and it doesn’t surprise me at all. She has spent her whole life so far telling the rest of us what to do and how and when to do it. It can get a little trying, but she’s going to be okay in life I think. I was worried she’d be upset about being cast as a Slytherin, but she’s actually really proud of it (more proof that she’s a Slytherin?).