i received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. all opinions below are my own.
this blog post is part of the more than just a pretty face blog tour, hosted by the amazing hear our voices book tours. ❤
More Than Just a Pretty Face by Syed M. Masood
For fans of Becky Albertalli and Jenny Han, a sweetly funny YA rom-com debut about falling in love, familial expectations, and being a Renaissance Man.
Danyal Jilani doesn’t lack confidence. He may not be the smartest guy in the room, but he’s funny, gorgeous, and going to make a great chef one day. His father doesn’t approve of his career choice, but that hardly matters. What does matter is the opinion of Danyal’s longtime crush, the perfect-in-all-ways Kaval, and her family, who consider him a less than ideal arranged marriage prospect.
When Danyal gets selected for Renaissance Man–a school-wide academic championship–it’s the perfect opportunity to show everyone he’s smarter than they think. He recruits the brilliant, totally-uninterested-in-him Bisma to help with the competition, but the more time Danyal spends with her…the more he learns from her…the more he cooks for her…the more he realizes that happiness may be staring him right in his pretty face.
more than just a pretty face is such an adorable and funny book, and i loved it a lot more than i expected! the cuteness of the novel lingers like the delicious aftertaste of a heartily made dessert (the food reference will make sense later!) and i could not stop smiling. i cannot wait for more people to read it – with the many, many terrible things going on in the world right now, it’s just exactly what i needed, and i’m sure many readers will feel the exact same way!
“tell me, daynal jilani, how exactly are you more than just a pretty face?” i gave her an adorable, irresistible grin. “i’m an absolutely gorgeous face.”more than just a pretty face by syed m. masood
how do i even begin? the characters in this book are all so lovable and well-written, and it would take me a very long time if i were to list out every single thing i liked about them. reading this novel felt like i was slowly getting to know and befriend every single one of the characters, and i don’t want to ruin this experience for people who haven’t read it yet, so i’ll try my best to keep it short and brief:
- danyal jilani, our main character, is a self-proclaimed pretty boy, high school repeater, and aspiring chef, and among all of these identities, his parents are not quite pleased with the latter two. despite his poor academic results, danyal’s a very charming person and has a heart of gold, so reading from his point of view was a very enjoyable experience for me. i began rooting for him the very moment i started reading, and i really admired how he always has his eyes set on his goal of getting into culinary school, works really hard towards it, and carries on despite all the doubts and skepticism other people seem to have about him and his dreams.
- danyal has always had a huge crush on his best friend’s sister, but when his parents set up an arranged marriage meeting for him and introduce him to bisma, a smart and nerdy microbiology university student at berkley, he has no choice but to comply. i loved bisma – she’s such a kind and helpful person, and a really good friend too. she and danyal had so much chemistry right from the beginning, and i loved seeing them slowly develop feelings for each other.
- bisma’s sister, suri, reminded me of lara jean song covey’s sister, kitty, in the tatbilb films (not!! the!! books!! unpopular opinion: the book version of kitty is petty and embarrasses her sister for the wrong reasons, it’s unforgivable behaviour). she loves playing matchmaker, often visiting danyal out of the blue and setting him up with her sister. it’s clear that she cares a lot about bisma’s happiness and future, and seeing her take initiative in making sure that her sister gets what she deserves warms my heart ❤
i also really loved the parts about food. danyal is really good at cooking – he not only makes indian food such as kheer (which i would really love to try, by the way! it’s sara‘s favorite pudding, after all) for large gatherings, but also works part-time at a french restaurant. my mouth watered when i read about the meals danyal makes – everything sounds so delicious! i also really liked how he sees food not only as something that can fill people’s bellies, but also as a medium for spreading love and joy among people.
for such a light-hearted read, more than just a pretty face also managed to make me reflect on myself and the way i consume information. in the book, danyal is chosen for a school competition called the renaissance man, where he has to give a speech about winston churchill. he then learns from his dad that winston churchill’s policies led to a terrible famine in bengal, and is unsure whether he should describe churchill as a war hero or a ruthless villain in his project. in history textbooks, winston churchill has always been described as a successful leader and admirable figure, and when i learned this in class, i never thought to challenge it. danyal’s story provides so much food for thought about the interpretation of history and standing up for what you believe is right despite what other people expect from you. it also prompted me to do more research on the 1943 bengal famine and educate myself on this little-known side of history.
food, glorious food by the oliver! musical cast
chasing cars by snow patrol
lover by taylor swift
you’re my best friend by queen
you belong with me by taylor swift
(i included two t swizzle songs, because they give off the same
looks up synonyms for cute and adorable but fails adorable vibes as more than just a pretty face and describe danyal and bisma’s slow-burn feelings perfectly!)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I grew up in Karachi, Pakistan, and currently live in Sacramento, California. There have been plenty of stops in between though. I’m a first generation immigrant, twice over. I’ve been a citizen of three different countries and lived in nine cities.
I am, as Goethe, said, “nothing but a wanderer […] on this earth.”
Living among different people, in different countries at fascinating times in their histories, has shaped both my view of the world and my writing. Ultimately, human beings are the same everywhere (despite the fact that they tell themselves, everywhere, that they are different from each other), and the theme of this fundamental human unity informs everything I write.
As to my life outside of writing, I went to the William and Mary School of Law, and before that attended the University of Toronto, where I studied English Literature. I am currently practicing as an attorney and must “measure out my life in coffee spoons” on a daily basis.
Some members of my family will tell you that I’m also a poet. This isn’t true. I wrote a few poems in Urdu when I was a teenager, and I’ve never heard the end of it…which I wouldn’t mind, honestly, if they were any good. As it is, I’m very happy living in prose, thank you very much.
Other interests include good food, video games, sitcoms, and books of all kinds. Most of my time that doesn’t go to writing or billable hours is consumed by my two children, four and two years of age.
have you read more than just a pretty face? what did you think? let me know in the comments. ❤