If You Could Be Mine



Love story about two Iranian girls is sad but educational.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Readers learn a great deal about life in Iran under religious rule. The protagonist mentions the Islamic Revolution, the fall of the Shah, the way police can stop and harass a woman if she's not covered up properly, and the facts that homosexuality is illegal and adultery is punishable by death. Many other oppressive rules and aspects of modern Iranian life are also discussed, including education, Islamic religious beliefs, the practice of arranged marriage, and particularly how gender reassignment is considered more acceptable than homosexuality, so long as the transgender person acts heterosexual after the surgery.

Positive messages

If You Could Be Mine promotes the idea that sexual orientation is ingrained -- because why would someone in such an oppressive country choose to be different? Sahar's struggle explains the difference between transgender people who feel as if they were born with the wrong body and people who are attracted to people of the same gender. The book explores the despair felt by people who aren't free to be with those they love -- either because they're gay or because they're not from the same class.

Positive role models

Sahar loves Nasrin so unconditionally she's willing to risk everything -- including her gender -- to be with her, but eventually she realizes that she can't give up being who she is, even for the person she loves most. Ali, despite his shady dealings, loves his cousin Sahar and wants the best for her. And Nasrin, who can be selfish at times, finally lets Sahar know what she intends for the future.


Cops stop to harass Nasrin, whom they call a "whore" for showing her elbows. Sahar's cousin Ali is beat up by authorities for being gay (after he refuses to adequately bribe closeted officials). "Daughter" (a young prostitute) appears with a big bruise on her face. Sahar lives with the constant fear that she'll wind up like two boys who were publicly hanged for being gay. She also describes how adulterers are stoned to death.


Teenage girls Nasrin and Sahar kiss -- sometimes chastely, sometimes passionately -- in secret. They occasionally do more, but it's never beyond caressing while making out. They are both virgins. Sahar wonders what it will be like for Nasrin to perform her "marital duties" if she marries her intended.


Infrequent coarse language includes "s--t," "bitch," "a--hole," "damn," and insults like "whore," "donkey butt," and more.


Sahar refers to rich women who wear designer scarves, like Versace, to cover up and mentions that wealthy families ride in chauffeured Mercedes Benz sedans.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Older teens (but mostly young adults) drink and smoke hookah or opium at Ali's parties.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that If You Could Be Mine is about an Iranian high school senior who's in love with her best friend and neighbor -- another girl. The book describes the oppressive and discriminatory laws that undermine personal freedom -- from what women can wear or show publicly to whom they can love (gay relationships are forbidden). The two central girls do make out -- always in private -- but they remain relatively chaste. There's occasional strong language ("s--t," "a--hole," and the like), as well as one shady cousin who hangs out with Iran's underground of LGBTQ people, opium users, and prostitutes. The police harass a girl and call her a "whore" for showing her elbows and beat up a man they know to be gay; the main character lives in fear that she'll be hanged for being gay, like two young men she remembers.

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What's the story?

Safar, 17, is a typical middle-class Iranian, except for the fact that she's secretly in love with her lifelong best girlfriend and neighbor, Nasrin, in a country where being gay isn't just difficult, it's deadly. Remembering two young men who were hanged for being gay, Safar struggles with her overwhelming feelings for Nasrin. When Nasrin's parents arrange for her to be married to a handsome doctor, Safar considers becoming one of a growing population of transgender Iranians, who as long as they are heterosexual after their gender reassignment are more accepted than gays. Unlike her new transgender friends, Safar doesn't feel like she's a man trapped in a woman's body. But if she stays a woman, she'll never be able to openly be with her true love.

Is it any good?


Farizan does a decent job of tackling extremely difficult subjects in a setting that will be utterly unfamiliar -- and unthinkably oppressive -- to most Western readers. She shows that regardless of where they live, teens in love are relatively the same the world over, even in places where that love is punishable by death. Protagonist Sahar is extremely smart, but she's also completely sheltered, having lost her mother at a young age and only a grief-stricken father as daily company. And she's in love with her gorgeous and glamorous -- if selfish -- bestie Nasrin.

Neither Sahar nor Nasrin are the most likable characters; they're both flawed in different ways: Sahar is so blinded by her love she's willing to entertain a sex change, even though she doesn't really want to be a man; and Nasrin is spoiled and narcissistic. The characters' shortcomings make the story even more believable, as the narrative would've felt too preachy and obvious if the girls were self-sacrificing martyrs. There aren't any big speeches, and neither girl rails against Islam in the book; but Sahar does make it clear that in a world where being a man gives you more rights, no one -- man or woman -- has the basic freedom of loving whom they please in Iran, and that's a sad fact indeed.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how much more is at stake for Sahar because of where she lives. How would the story be different if it were set in America? What did you learn from the book about life in Iran?

  • Sahar says she would have more rights as a man -- even a transgender one -- than a woman. How does the author describe the plight of Iranian women under theocratic rule?

  • institutional sexism and discrimination, which are pervasive in Iran, are illegal in Western countries, but does that mean it doesn't exist? How are sexism and homophobia manifest in the United States? What can you do to combat prejudice?

Book details

Author:Sara Farizan
Genre:Contemporary Fiction
Topics:Friendship, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Algonquin Young Readers
Publication date:August 20, 2013
Number of pages:256
Publisher's recommended age(s):14 - 17
Available on:Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

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Parent Written byFamilyValuesFirst September 2, 2015

Pure Garbage!

Why are the public schools wanting young kids reading this garbage! I don't want my kids reading about girls having sexual relationships with other girls!!!


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