By Alaina Leary
Today we’re pleased to welcome Sandhya Menon to the WNDB blog to discuss her young adult novel 10 Things I Hate About Pinky, out July 21, 2020!
The delightful follow-up to When Dimple Met Rishi and There’s Something about Sweetie, which follows Ashish’s friends Pinky and Samir as they pretend to date in order to achieve their individual goals, to disastrous and hilarious results.
Pinky Kumar wears the social justice warrior badge with pride. From raccoon hospitals to persecuted rock stars, no cause is too esoteric for her to champion. But a teeny tiny part of her also really enjoys making her conservative, buttoned-up corporate lawyer parents cringe.
Samir Jha might have a few…quirks remaining from the time he had to take care of his sick mother, like the endless lists he makes in his planner and the way he schedules every minute of every day, but those are good things. They make life predictable and steady.
Pinky loves lazy summers at her parents’ Cape Cod lake house, but after listening to them harangue her about the poor decisions she’s made (a.k.a. boyfriends she’s had), she hatches a plan. Get her sorta-friend-sorta-enemy—who is a total Harvard-bound Mama’s boy—to pose as her perfect boyfriend for the summer.
When Samir’s internship falls through, leaving him with an unplanned summer, he gets a text from Pinky asking if he’ll be her fake boyfriend in exchange for a new internship. He jumps at the opportunity; Pinky’s a weirdo, but he can survive a summer with her if there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
As they bicker their way through lighthouses and butterfly habitats, sparks fly, and they both realize this will be a summer they’ll never forget.
How would you pitch 10 Things I Hate About Pinky to potential readers in one or two sentences?
Fake dating at a summer lake house on Cape Cod! Also, butterflies!
10 Things plays with the fake dating trope and with rivals to lovers. What do you love about these two tropes and what drew you to writing this setup for your characters, Pinky and Samir?
I’m absolute trash for fake dating. Give it to me in any shape or form and I’ll instantly devour it. When I wrote There’s Something about Sweetie (the companion book before 10 Things I Hate about Pinky) and Samir and Pinky came on the page, I knew immediately there was something there. The more I thought about it, the more I realized sticking these two complete opposites in a place they can’t escape and having them be forced to date each other (they each have something to gain from this setup) would be hilarious! What can I say? I’m an evil author.
Pinky is passionate about social justice, especially when her conservative parents disapprove. What was it like writing a main character who is so dedicated and how did you tie that in with social justice issues in our contemporary world?
Like many other adults, I’ve been in complete awe of young people stepping up and taking on causes that we adults have messed up. (See: Malala Yousafzai; Amariyanna Copeny; Greta Thunberg.) It’s not just big acts of activism, either. If you pay attention, you’ll see your average middle school and high school students speaking up about things they believe in and are passionate about. I admire their energy, and I knew I had to write a character like that.
Writing Pinky was pure joy. She’s so fiery and outspoken and she backs up her words with action, which is a rare trait indeed. I also had to read up on a lot of different causes to find ones that she would champion in the book, which was extremely educational (for instance, did you know that while opossums live in North America, possums live in Australia?).
This book focuses on Pinky’s complicated relationship with her mother in a way that isn’t often seen in YA, particularly in romances. How do Pinky’s fears about how her mother views her drive her decisions? What did you want each of them to come away knowing after their journey in this book?
Pinky’s in that complicated phase of life where although you want to not care about that parent who seems so unsupportive of you, you also can’t help but try to please and impress them. This leads to some very attention-getting behavior because more than anything, she wants to connect with her mother.
My goal from the beginning was to show that being an adult can often lead people to think they have to disapprove of passion or recklessness or that effervescent energy so many adolescents bring to the table. Both Pinky and her mom learn from each other: Pinky learns that sometimes, passion and impulsivity can lead to consequences she hasn’t had to deal with yet, and Pinky’s mom learns that it’s okay to let go and live in light instead of fear.
10 Things is very much a summer romance. Have you always liked summer romance books? Do you think there’s something about a summer romance book that differs from other romance books? How does the time constraint play into Samir and Pinky’s relationship?
I absolutely adore summer romance books! As a reader, I’m very aware there’s a time limit on the relationship and that the clock has begun ticking. If these characters don’t fall in love soon, their chance will be lost forever! That always amps up the tension. Samir and Pinky don’t just have the time constraint, but also the added “bonus” of hating each other and not understanding each other at all while also having to pretend that they were in love, which was so much fun to play with.
You chose to end this book without showing readers what Pinky and Samir’s relationship is like outside of this summer when they’re back to interacting with friends and classmates. Why did you make that choice? How do you think Samir and Pinky’s romance will evolve once they’re back in that setting?
I made that choice because I wanted to maintain that feeling of summer magic. An epilogue would, I think, ruin the sparkly summer bubble of their romance. As for how I think their romance will evolve once they’re back home…that’s up to each individual reader to decide. 🙂
What other YA novels do you think 10 Things I Hate About Pinky is in conversation with?
Definitely The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han, which is all about summer and identity and growing up!
What is one question that you wish you were asked more often (and the answer)?
Question: What is your favorite tea, Sandhya?
Answer: Vanilla Caramel black tea! Get it now!
Sandhya Menon is the New York Times bestselling author of When Dimple Met Rishi, Of Curses and Kisses, and many other novels that also feature lots of kissing, girl power, and swoony boys. Her books have been included in several cool places, including the Today show, Teen Vogue, NPR, BuzzFeed, and Seventeen. A full-time dog servant and part-time writer, she makes her home in the foggy mountains of Colorado. Visit her on Twitter @smenonbooks, Instagram @sandhyamenonbooks, and at SandhyaMenon.com.
Alaina (Lavoie) is the communications manager of We Need Diverse Books. She also teaches in the graduate department of Writing, Literature, and Publishing at Emerson College and is a book reviewer for Booklist. She received a 2017 Bookbuilders of Boston scholarship for her work in the publishing industry. Her writing has been published in New York Times, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Refinery29, Allure, Healthline, Glamour, The Oprah Magazine, and more. She currently lives in Boston with her wife and their two literary cats. Follow her @AlainasKeys on Instagram and Twitter.