Like Smoke (Paro Anand) – Relatable Teenage Life Stories

Like Smoke by Paro Anand was a book I got my hands on only because it was recommended by a friend. Again. Though I wouldn’t have thought of reading this book initially, I’m glad I did. The stories were deep and thoughtful, and brought out a sense of gratitude in me that I wouldn’t have discovered myself.

Each and every one of these stories is a gateway into a divergent world of another unique teen’s mind, thoughts and emotions. It allows you to tap into an unusual perspective, different, yet extremely similar to our own mindset. Each teenager, having to deal with a bucketful of emotional wreckage every day, can put it down, can describe it, capturing every inch of that feeling and forcing it on you. These emotions are relatable for most teenagers, and probably for some adults too. It’s like walking through a garden, except that all the fruits and flowers are memories, and each fragrance or stench is an emotion.

Even though every single story has rooted itself inside me, none has gone as deep as They Called Her ‘Fats’, the story of a javelin-throwing prodigy, Fatima Whitbread. Fatima is unemotional and isn’t socially inclined, and is constantly found in rumours around her multiple child-care centres. They called her a ‘witch’ and said that she performed ‘ancient pagan rituals’ in the middle of the night, but despite all that, her sheer will to run, to throw, set her free. It is an encouraging and touching story, and it tells us to, no matter what, follow your dreams. This story wouldn’t have been an initial choice of mine, being sports-themed and all, but I have to grudgingly admit that I do take away from this story. Chasing after your aspiration is an important thing in life, and if we didn’t pursue them, then we’d all be failures.

Another thing about the book that I really appreciated, was the effort to bring in themes that children today should know. There were stories about terrorism, riots and domestic violence. I find this important as thing like these are actually happening in this world, right now. We’re trapped in our personal safe bubble by our parents -even though they only want to protect us- and we hardly know what’s going on outside it. I’m saying this through first-hand experience…I had to find out some day.

Stories such as ‘Those Yellow Flowers of August’, ‘Wild Child’, ‘Milk’, ‘See you Shortly’ ‘Jason Jamison and I’ or even ‘City Boy’, which will make you feel like sobbing, wanting to break something or crying out in rage because of the unfairness of this world and what it does to people. There are other stories too, like ‘Susu’, which will make you burst out in laughter, in contrary to all the emotional and heart-wrenching tales.

Each one of these tales will touch you in some way or another. Each teen in this book is someone you have seen, or maybe even been. They are not all of one event, of one time frame, or even of one emotion, they just do one thing similar – they feel, and they want to help others do the same.

The book feels raw at first glance, and probably might feel like a rant to older readers. But people younger beg to differ. The book is something you just pick up and read when a wave of emotion threatens to drown you, so you can relate to something or want to lighten up. The only recommendation I have for this book is teenagers, and those who are adolescent at heart or overly-emotional, like me.

I have nothing more to say but to pick up a copy of your own, and no matter how long it sits on your bookshelf, it will call you, and then you will pick it up sometime. I guarantee.


Apoorva’s Fat Diary (Nandini Nayar) – Enormously Funny!

Is Apoorva’s Fat Diary an Indian retort to the ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ series? A fat girl struggling to survive in a malicious, non-forgiving school world? These were my initial thoughts as I picked this book.

Written by Nandini Nayar and published by Mango Books, this book is indeed a delightful diary of a plump Indian school girl. Apoorva (the main character in this book), like all growing tweens, loves food and hates to write! The diary begins as a negotiated agreement between Apoorva and her persuasive mother to improve her writing skills. Apoorva agrees to this on one condition-she will only write about the 12 best meals she has eaten- and nothing more! But the story has been crafted so beautifully that it is a insightful peep into of every chubby school kid’s diary. Her mother relying on fat parenting books to get her fit into the shape of the world, a super fit dad, an adorable Aaji, her pretty sister Avantika and of course, an annoying, irritating little brother Ashu are very relatable!

The bus bully Bharat and the quirky ‘elephant’ jokes are hilarious! Rakesh uncle, his mindless attitude and the family’s varied reactions to his mean comments, once again underline the importance of remaining unperturbed and following you heart like Apoorva. I really like Apoorva’s cool attitude because it inspires me not to get shaken by jokes and let nothing bother me.

The book was very entertaining, stuffed with breaths of everyday school life thrills and chills- from eating someone else’s lunch, getting glasses to the ‘Grand Sports Day’ and Apoorva’s discomfiture. What truly elevated the experience was the superlatively funny illustrations by Lavanya Karthik.

A few of my favourite are the monster in Rakesh uncle’s shadow, Ashu with a tape across his mouth, Apoorva getting squashed by a ‘fat’ book, her trial for sports day events and the question and answers. With my habit of doodling in my own diary, these cartoons made it a perfect kid’s dairy to me!

Every fat girl will find herself nodding to this book. But Apoorva’s sensible head, the take everything in your stride attitude and her value for true friendship in school life were the takeaways for me.

I chose this  for the contest because every Apoorva and her friends need to read this book to get a taste of what it is like to be a fat girl in the school and why that’s cool too!


(P.S. My review was one of the winning reviews for the Leading Reading Schools of India 2016 challenge and was officially published here.)