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Book Review: Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani

Publisher’s description

pashminaPriyanka Das has so many unanswered questions: Why did her mother abandon her home in India years ago? What was it like there? And most importantly, who is her father, and why did her mom leave him behind? But Pri’s mom avoids these questions—the topic of India is permanently closed.

For Pri, her mother’s homeland can only exist in her imagination. That is, until she find a mysterious pashmina tucked away in a forgotten suitcase. When she wraps herself in it, she is transported to a place more vivid and colorful than any guidebook or Bollywood film. But is this the real India? And what is that shadow lurking in the background? To learn the truth, Pri must travel farther than she’s ever dared and find the family she never knew.

In this heartwarming graphic novel debut, Nidhi Chanani weaves a tale about the hardship and self-discovery that is born from juggling two cultures and two worlds.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

This had been on my TBR since I first saw it and then I bumped it up when I started looking for books to read with the fifth grade girls’ book club, as many of the girls are Indian-American. I absolutely loved this book. Priyanka, who prefers to go by Pri, is a teenager living with her single mother. She doesn’t know much about her mother’s past. She doesn’t know anything about her father, about why her mother left India and refuses to ever go back, or about why she no longer speaks to her sister. But when Pri discovers a magical pashmina, everything begins to change. Suddenly, Pri is transported to India, where two animals take her on very picture perfect tourist guide stops around India. A shadow seems to be following her, beckoning to her. When Pri takes the pashmina off, that world evaporates and she’s back at home in America. The distinction between these two worlds and experiences is very effectively portrayed through vibrant colors in India and dull purples for her life at home. An unexpected phone call from her aunt sends her on a real-life trip to India, where Priyanka begins to learn about her mother’s past and put together the pieces that have always felt missing.

 

This is a wonderful story of searching and longing—a story of discovery, secrets, living in two cultures, and women’s choices and pressures. Readers 10 and up will enjoy this adventurous and thoughtful look at truth and family. Beautifully done. 

 

ISBN-13: 9781626720879
Publisher: First Second
Publication date: 10/03/2017

Book Review: Just a Girl by Carrie Mesrobian

Publisher’s description

just a girlTaking a hard look at the societal constraints on teenage girls, Morris Award nominee Carrie Mesrobian tells one girl’s story with bracing honesty and refreshing authenticity.

By her senior year of high school, Rianne has exhausted all the fun there is to have in small-town Wereford, Minnesota. Volleyball season is winding down, the parties feel tired, and now that she’s in a serious relationship with reformed player Luke Pinsky, her wild streak has ended. Not that she ever did anything worse than most guys in her school…but she knows what everyone thinks of her.

Including her parents. Divorced but now inexplicably living together again, Rianne wonders why they’re so quick to point out every bad choice she’s making when they can’t even act like adults—or have the decency to tell Rianne whether or not they’re getting back together. With an uncomfortable home life and her once-solid group of friends now dissolving, the reasons for sticking around after high school are few. So why is Rianne locking step when it comes to figuring out her future?

That’s not the only question Rianne can’t answer. Lately she’s been wondering why, when she has a perfect-on-paper boyfriend, she wants anything but. Or how it is that Sergei, a broken-English-speaking Russian, understands her better than anyone who’s known her all her life? And—perhaps the most troubling question—why has Rianne gotten stuck with an “easy girl” reputation for doing the same exact things as guys without any judgment?

Carrie Mesrobian, acclaimed author of Sex & Violence and Cut Both Ways, sets fire to the unfair stereotypes and contradictions that persist even in the twenty-first century.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

Here are things I consistently like about Carrie’s books: the plots are really just about the day-to-day lives of teenagers (we all know by now I’m a big fan of plots that don’t extend a ton between just talking/daily lives/figuring out what life as a teenager means—you know, that small plot); the endings never tie everything up neatly or definitively; the teenagers talk and act like actual teenagers; the books are set in Minnesota. Given that I grew up in the same area as Carrie at roughly the same time, I always so enjoy the way she captures the feeling of small-town Minnesota and like being able to recognize the details of places and references.

 

Rianne spends a lot of time thinking perhaps she should behave one way and then doing the opposite. She doesn’t think of herself as a “good girl,” whatever that means (we know what that means), and often tries to convince herself to behave better… maybe later. She’s bored and restless and aimless. Welcome to the end of senior year, right? Her friendships aren’t as strong as they once were, her long-divorced parents are apparently now dating each other, and somehow Luke, the boy she’s been hooking up with, thinks he wants to settle down with her. At a time in her life when the big question is “what’s next?” Rianne doesn’t seem to have any answers that actually seem appealing. Move to St. Paul just because some of her friends are going there? Find an apartment in boring Wereford? Move in with Luke? It all seems to sound awful to Rianne. Her mother has basically washed her hands of trying to guide Rianne, telling her once graduation happens, she’s out on her own. Though Rianne has always done her own thing with little regard for consequences, her impending total freedom doesn’t seem exciting or appealing—it just seems terrifyingly uncertain and sort of depressing. She doesn’t really talk to anyone about any of this. Her friends have their own drama going on, she’s never confided much in her parents, and Luke, though attentive and fun, isn’t someone she really feels any big connection to. She can’t even bring herself to call him her boyfriend and is pretty freaked out that he calls her his girlfriend. She’s constantly pretending with him, which she knows. She continues to date Luke, leaving him in the dark about her potential plans—or lack of plans—and also leaving him in the dark about Sergei, the older Russian college student she’s hooking up with. He seems like the only person she really feels any real connection with, though even that is marked by her passivity and inability to decide her life for herself. Rianne is a complex character. Though on the surface she seems bold and confident, she’s actually really insecure. Losing the stability she’s had (a solid friend group, an understanding of her family unit, a predictable but secure life in Wereford) is throwing her for a loop and it’s not clear if she will be able to recover and take some control over her life or just be led where others take her. Readers worrying about their own uncertain futures will particularly relate to Rianne. A realistic but uneasy look at choices, expectations, independence, and everything else that comes with the end of high school. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9780062349910

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication date: 03/28/2017

Book Review: Proof of Forever by Lexa Hillyer

 

proofImagine you could go back in time and relive 5 days of your life. Would you make the same choices, knowing what you know now? Would you hope you were altering the future? Would you want to maybe stay in the past? These are the questions the characters in Proof of Forever by Lexa Hillyer struggle with when a photo booth turns into a time machine and sends them back two years to when they were all 15.

 

Zoe, Joy, Tali, and Luce used to be best friends. They stuck together each summer at Camp Okahatchee. But two years ago, everything changed. Joy dropped out of all of their lives, and they just sort of drifted apart. But now Joy has brought them together, just before they are to head off to college, for the camp reunion. They all have their own things going on. Zoe has just that day broken up with her boyfriend, Calvin, after deciding she just isn’t feeling the relationship (and, if she’s being honest, she’s never really felt into any of her relationships). Tali is a wealthy “ugly-duckling-turned-swan” (her wording) who is about to find out some upsetting news about her family. Luce is gearing up to head to Princeton, where she ostensibly will continue her record of being perfect and excelling in everything she does. She’s also about to have sex with Andrew, her longtime boyfriend, before the camp reunion, but Tali shows up and ruins that plan. And Joy… well, no one knows what’s going on with her. Even though she’s the one who’s brought them together, we don’t really learn what’s going on with her until the very end of the book.

 

When they attempt a group picture in a photo booth, they’re somehow taken back two years in time. They figure they have 5 days to try and recreate the past to obtain the objects they were holding in the picture from the time they were originally 15—that seems like their only hope for somehow getting back to the future. They try to follow the past exactly as it happened before, but that’s a lot more challenging than they’d expected. Frankly, making the same choices and hoping for the same outcomes starts to look incredibly unappealing to most of them pretty quickly. In this extremely unexpected second chance summer, they learn surprising things about themselves that will likely alter their futures. And spending 5 days rekindling what felt like long-dead friendships? It turns out to happen just in the nick of time.

 

The characters are distinctive and all travel their own paths during their repeat week, but come together for the things that matter. It’s a fun, thoughtful, and unpredictable look at who we let ourselves become and redefining ourselves.

 

(P.S–My only quibble is this line: “…some infinities are bigger than others.” It completely pulled me out of the book. Are you intentionally quoting John Green, I wondered? I didn’t like it.) EDITING THIS TO INCLUDE PART OF THE COMMENT LEXA LEFT ON THIS POST: “Did you read the galley version? I just wanted to let you know that I am almost positive I actually changed the “infinity” line you mentioned for the final book (beginning of ch.20, right?)–for that exact reason! I hadn’t read TFIOS when I wrote the first draft of this book but by the time I had, I realized John Green now practically owns the concept (even though it’s something basic everyone learns in high school math).”

 

Review copy courtesy of Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9780062330376

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication date: 6/2/2015