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My Brain Doesn’t Believe in Getting Things Done, a guest post by Sangu Mandanna

My brain is, frankly, a menace. You know that friend, the one who turns up with an irresistible party invitation right when you need to finish that important piece of work? That’s my brain. It has Opinions about how I should spend my time. It doesn’t believe in Getting Things Done. It thinks I should just drop what I’m doing, no matter how important, because “ooh! Remember that book we wanted to look up? Let’s do that now!” and “oops, it’s been three hours because we fell down a rabbit hole of Random Stuff.”

To a lot of people, that sounds absurd. When they want to look that book up, they can put the thought aside until a better time. And if they do look it up, it takes them a few minutes and they go back to what they were doing. When I try to explain what my brain does, they’re confused.

“But why don’t you just ignore it?”

I only wish.

The thing about my brain is that I can’t ignore it. The part of me that controls how I make my decisions and how I act on a thought is, of course, in my brain. There’s plenty of science to explain it, but in short, my brain calls the shots and it likes its power a little too much. It’s pigheaded. It spends its time and energy on what it considers worthwhile, and nothing I or anyone else says will make a difference. It will, for example, put me at my laptop writing words for ten hours without so much as a break, but it can’t bring itself to walk down a flight of stairs and make a slice of toast.

And then there’s the other stuff. The stuff I don’t particularly like to talk about. Like when I lie awake for seven hours straight thinking of a horrific event I read in the news three years ago and, no matter what I do, I can’t make my brain switch off. Or when my friend’s cat has a cuddle on my lap and it’s lovely, but the moment I notice the cat hair on my clothes, suddenly, it’s like I can’t see or think about anything else until every single hair is gone. Or when I have to get up in the middle of the night to check that the front door is locked, even though I checked it an hour before that, and there’s no point telling myself not to do it because I’ll just end up thinking about it instead.

There are names for these conditions, but I didn’t know them for a long time. I never used to think of myself as neurodivergent or as having a mental illness. I just thought there was something wrong with me. It was a difficult thing to live with, this idea that I was somehow weak, or lazy, or just wrong in some way because I couldn’t control the way I felt or the thoughts I had. How could I not be able to tell my own brain what to do? Why couldn’t I just “get on with it” or “get a grip” like I was told to?

I know now, of course, that there’s nothing wrong with me. I am neurodivergent and I have a mental illness. My OCD, depression and anxiety may never go away, but they can be treated, and I no longer feel any sense of shame or guilt about them. As for my neurodivergence, which for me is mostly my ADHD, well, that’s something I’ve come to embrace. I used to think my brain was my enemy, but now I think of it with fond exasperation. It’s unquestionably a pest. It is. I wish it behaved better.

But I also never forget that it makes me who I am. Yes, it misbehaves, but it’s also creative, kind and brave. It gives me shelter from the real world and it gives me the stories I live to tell.

And that’s the space out of which Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom was born. Kiki, my young, creative heroine, is like me. She’s a British-Indian girl with ADHD and OCD, though she doesn’t know the words yet. She’s strong, but questions her own strength. She’s brave, but worries about big things and small things. She creates whole worlds in her sketchbook, but struggles to enjoy a simple day out with her friends because her brain has other ideas.

Then her sketchbook kingdom, a world of folklore and magic, comes to life and suddenly, Kiki has to be a hero. She doesn’t think she can do it, of course. She doesn’t think she’s strong enough or brave enough. She doesn’t think art, creativity and heart are as powerful as swords and monsters.

Spoiler: she’s wrong.

Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom is all about creativity, magic, and friendship. There’s folklore from the south of India, a warrior goddess, a talking lion, a crew of plucky rebel kids, and, above all, a heroine who finds her own unique way of fighting back. I hope Kiki’s story finds a place in the hearts of the readers who need it most.

Meet the author

Sangu Mandanna was four years old when an elephant chased her down a forest road and she decided to write her first story about it. Seventeen years and many, many manuscripts later, she signed her first book deal. She is the author of YA novels The Lost Girl, A Spark of White Fire and its sequels, and has contributed to several anthologies. She lives in Norwich, in the east of England, with her husband and kids. Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom is her first middle-grade novel.

About Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom

For fans of the Aru Shah and Serpent’s Secret series, this action-packed fantasy-adventure sees a girl’s drawings of Indian mythology spring to vivid life—including the evil god who seeks to enter the real world and destroy it.

Kiki Kallira has always been a worrier. Did she lock the front door? Is there a terrible reason her mom is late? Recently her anxiety has been getting out of control, but one thing that has always soothed her is drawing. Kiki’s sketchbook is full of fanciful doodles of the rich Indian myths and legends her mother has told her over the years. 

One day, her sketchbook’s calming effect is broken when her mythological characters begin springing to life right out of its pages. Kiki ends up falling into the mystical world she drew, which includes a lot of wonderful discoveries like the band of rebel kids who protect the kingdom, as well as not-so-great ones like the ancient deity bent on total destruction. As the one responsible for creating the evil god, Kiki must overcome her fear and anxiety to save both worlds—the real and the imagined—from his wrath. But how can a girl armed with only a pencil defeat something so powerful?

ISBN-13: 9780593206973
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 07/06/2021
Series: Kiki Kallira #1
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years

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