Monday, February 9, 2015

Half-Girlfriend | Chetan Bhagat

Once upon a time, there was a Bihari boy called Madhav. He fell in love with a rich girl from Delhi called Riya. Madhav didnt speak English well. Riya did. Madhav wanted a relationship. Riya didn't. Riya just wanted friendship. Madhav didn't. Riya suggested a compromise. She agreed to be his half-girlfriend.

From the author of the blockbuster novels Five Point Someone, One Night at the Call Center, The 3 Mistakes of My Life, 2 States and Revolution 2020 comes a simple and beautiful love story that will touch your heart and inspire you to chase your dreams.

I had pretty high expectations for this book. Everyone in India praises Chetan Bhagat as a writer since he's sold thousands of successfully books which have also been made into movies, however, based on this book, I don't understand the obsession. I'm in no way attacking Chetan Bhagat or his career, I'm simply calling into question the popularity of this particular book.

Personally, I found it cliched and poorly written and I really wouldn't recommend it, however I do plan to give Chetan Bhagat a second chance by reading another one of his books.

There are several reasons I disliked this book, and in order to discuss these I'm going spoil different parts of the books, so if you want to read this book and haven't, I don't recommend continuing this review. I also don't recommend continuing this review if you really liked this book, since there are many rants ahead. 

1. Characters

I could easily say that there were only two characters in this book and I wouldn't be too far from the truth. But even these two characters were mediocre at best. Their individual character developments and their relationships with each other were terrible. I didn't see any change in the characters from beginning to end. 

She was more tolerable than the rest of the characters, but near the end, she really began to piss me off. She was unnecessarily leading Madhav on throughout most of the book. Though she was pretty adamant near the beginning, which I appreciated, near the end she once again began leading him on, knowing she was leaving anyways. Speaking of that, she pretended to have cancer. That's not something you just joke about, you don't just tell someone "oh yeah btdubs I have 3 months left to live. Peace sucka." and leave. That's honestly just cruel. From this point onwards I simply skimmed because I didn't even mildly like any of the characters anymore. 

To say I hated Madhav is bit of an understatement. He was clingy, needy and ridiculously persistent, never understanding the concept of letting go and moving on. He is rash, insecure, and impulsive, causing him to make some really REALLY bad decisions. His character is not one I enjoyed. At all. 

2. Plot

Generally the plot was unrealistic and predictable. I skimmed a good part of the end because I knew exactly what would happen and didn't feel like wasting my time with mediocre dialogue and cliched settings. The only real twist was that Riya was actually alive and not dead from cancer, a twist I found really dumb. 

3. Writing Style 

Chetan Bhagat has a really simple way of writing, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. However simple writing in conjunction with a predictable storyline and flat characters makes for a tedious read. Also one thing I want to point out is that he used himself as a character several times in the book, which I found really dumb. I understand using your own name as inspiration for a place or character (Clary from Cassandra Clare or the Lorien Legacies from Pittacus Lore) but using yourself as an established writer in your own book just seemed incredibly dumb. If done properly I feel like it could work, but I don't think it was done well in this case. He also uses first person for two separate people and isn't consistent with it. It takes a bit of time figuring out whose talking and it's just annoyingly confusing. 

The Silver Lining 

The only good part about this book was the emphasis on the schools in Bihar. Though the part about Bill Gates and all the grants they received was a bit too convenient, I liked the concept that Chetan Bhagat was going for, and I wish there was more focusing on these schools rather than Madhav's quest for Riya. 

Essentially this book was written like a screen play for a movie. I think it'll make a better movie than a book, but I guess we'll just wait and see.