Book Review: 96 Words for Love by Rachel Roy and Ava Dash

96 Words for Love by Rachel Roy & Ava Dash

Posted March 18, 2021 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments

96 Words for Love

96 Words for Love

by Ava Dash, Rachel Roy

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson on January 15, 2019
Genre: Contemporary, Retellings, Romance
Target Age Group: Young Adult
Representation: BIPOC, Black, Gay, Indian, LGBTQIAP+
Content Warnings: Kidnapping, Trafficking

Rating: ★★★

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Ever since her acceptance to UCLA, 17-year-old Raya Liston has been quietly freaking out. She feels simultaneously lost and trapped by a future already mapped out for her.

Then her beloved grandmother dies, and Raya jumps at the chance to spend her last free summer at the ashram in India where her grandmother met and fell in love with her grandfather. Raya hopes to find her center and her true path. But she didn't expect to fall in love... with a country of beautiful contradictions, her fiercely loyal cousin, a local girl with a passion for reading, and a boy who teaches her that in Sanskrit, there are 96 different ways to say the word "love."


I really liked the setting and basic structure behind 96 Words for Love, but I think the novel got a little bit lost in itself.  This book did not seem to know whether it was telling the story of Raya trying to find her purpose in life, a treasure hunt for a meaningful gift left by her grandmother, the line between Raya’s world and the part of India where the ashram was and learning and privilege… or just a love story.  96 Words for Love did each one of these things about… 25%.

The turns in the story felt really convenient.  There was no basis for a lot of Raya’s successes in this book.  Not that I want to hold her back and drag her down, but the treasure hunt aspect was the whole leadup at the beginning of the book, and it was resolved very easily and very early.  The kidnapping at the end felt like an opportunity to tell a very powerful truth, but it happens so fast and the resolution was absolutely flown through… it didn’t work, not well.  For a book about the difficulties in even a privileged life, everything seemed far too easy to fix.

It’s not just the plot turns, either.  The character relationships don’t work, there’s far too much reliance on pop culture between relationships, and there are far took many stereotypes.  There are also too many prominently important characters, including a celebrity no less.  A celebrity with a connection to the person Raya’s cousin is obsessed with (Nick Jonas).  Of course1  What else would possibly happen when you go to an ashram to find whatever guidance your grandmother left behind for you!  Raya is also far too respected, with nearly every character taking her advice without question and everything works out with a very “happily ever after” vibe.

I just don’t believe it.  This book has a lot of compelling pieces, but either something is lost in editing that should have been there, or the writing is simply… lacking.  On their own, there are many parts of 96 Words for Love that would have been interesting.  There are many characters with potential to grow.  But because of the lack of direction, everything fell flat and ended up being neatly tied up with a fluffy pink bow and didn’t work at all.

I’m not saying this was a bad book, either, so please don’t misunderstand.  There were a lot of things that were unique and interesting!  I think what makes this most difficult was all the potential.  96 Words for Love was a really easy book to read and it was easy to fall into and absorb.  But it failed to be satisfying.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★★
Plot: ★★ 1/2
Characters: ★★ 1/2
Writing: ★★★
Pacing: ★★★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★ 1/2

3 Star Rating


96 Words for Love Will Be Donated

In my opinion, 96 Words for Love is very much a “read it and let it go” book.  I’m not sorry I read it – I find myself now very interested  in ashrams and learning more about the experience (the true experience, not sensationalized) of staying at one!  I will problem look for some articles to further educate myself.  But this novel, this fictional story, is not the type of thing I’m interested in reading again.  It’s just fine, but it wasn’t great, and I think a lot of the flaws I forgave in a first read would be glaring in a second one.


Would you be able to spend a summer in a secluded place without access to the outside world?  To be honest, this sounds so liberating to me!  The opportunity to actually disconnect and ground myself with the things right in front of me sounds amazing.  But what about you?  Tell me your impressions in the comments!

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