The Case of the Stolen Strokes of Heaven: An Annoying Teenage Misadventure

Keith lifted the wooden lid that covered his desk only to recoil in shock of the sight he beheld.

“My sketchbook,” he noted. “It’s gone.”

He had barely been gone for a matter of ten minutes, but those ten minutes that he spared to eat his lunch had turned out to be a grave mistake, as he now realized.

“Hey, Eris?” he spoke. “Are you seeing this?”

“If you mean the fact that your sketchbook is missing,” she said, with the roll of her eyes evident in her voice, “yes, yes I am. However,” she spoke, raising her nihilistic tone to one that now mocked the boy standing by her. “If you mean that I am seeing the fact hat you’ve lost your sense of normalcy, then I noticed that eons ago.”

The boy rubbed his pale temples in disdain, sending a glare worthy of only a child of Medusa towards the curly-haired tower of sarcasm above him.

“I’m serious, Eris. That had spoilers for my manga in it. It could get leaked and my spotless reputation would be soiled forevermore!”

“You don’t even have a manga,” she shook her head sadly. “It’s just a little comic you doodle about an angel and a devil who fall in love. And its on your Instagram, not even physically published.”

“But Eris,” he pleaded. “Help me find it, at least.”

“I can’t say no to that face.” She sighed. “Fine, at least give me a minute to find Zack and Connie.”

Ten minutes later four middle-schoolers were grouped around the crime scene, stating the fact of the case which had now come to be known as the ‘Case of the Stolen Strokes of Heaven’ as Connie dubbed it.

(‘But Keith’s art isn’t that great”, Eris complained. ‘Yes, it is,’ Connie declared. ‘So there.’)

“So you and Keith went down to eat lunch,” Zack summed up. “For ten minutes, and then he returns to find that his sketchbook has disappeared off the face of the earth.”

“That’s pretty much it.” Eris concluded. “Connie seems to have no input on the matter though, do you, Connie?”

“Nope. Nada. Zilch. Nahi.” Connie affirmed in four languages.

Eris rolled her eyes. “I wish I didn’t ask, you braggart.”

“Guys,” Keith spoke, for the first time in 10 minutes. “It’s been a while and we haven’t got any closer to figuring out suspects.”

“For once,” Eris noted. “Keith is right.”

“For once?” Keith exclaimed in outrage.

“Oh my God, would you two stop? Look, kids are coming into the class right now.” Zack rattled off. “We’ll scan them for any guilty faces. Eris, try not to look like you’re going to murder everyone in cold blood. Connie, stop grinning like an escaped mental hospital admittance, and Keith? Just, try not to cry? I guess?”

“I’m too tough to cry.” Keith spoke.

Connie coughed into her fist. “Just yesterday you were crying about snakes.”

“They don’t have proper eyesight! They can’t read manga!” Keith wailed.

Just then, the most petrifying danger, even worse than hurricane Irma, stormed into the class with a sour look of resignation on her face, her eyes flittering from student to student pronouncing, I hate that, I hate that and I really hate that.

It was math class, and Mrs. Johannesburg was back.

Who is Mrs. Johannesburg, you may ask? Well, you’re certainly been lucky to not know her. She was the principal of the school, nicknamed ‘The Demon Teacher’ by her pupils, who doubled as a math teacher for, well,  let us just call them…special classes. In particular, Eris’ class.

She despised Eris and her gang. Eris with her curly hair, rude demeanor and sarcastic behavior; Keith with his lack of interest in the subject and constant doodling in class; and Zack  with his tendency to identify loopholes, ask stupid questions and distract the class, they were the absolute worst.

But she loved Connie, for no apparent reason other than the fact that she kept finding more and more excessively complicated ways to do a simple sum.

Eris groaned, and Keith shifted his seat behind her to be shielded from the demon teacher as much as possible. Zack leaned back in his chair to leisurely think of the worded pranks he would pull this lesson.

Connie sat up front. Teacher’s pet, Eris thought, with an exaggerated roll of her eyes.

“Aargh!” Keith whisper-yelled to the dark-skinned girl to his front. “What am I supposed to do in class?”

“Look on the bright side,” Eris remarked. “You’ll listen today and scribble some notes, hopefully, instead of doodling all the time. At least you could pass the upcoming Maths teat this week.”

“Very helpful,” Keith snorted. “Especially since you’re going to sleep all lesson.”

“No, I’m not.” Eris retorted. “Now take out your book, she’s already started.”

“No, I won’t.” Keith snapped. “In fact, I’m going to-”

But we will never know what Keith was going to do, for it was Mrs. Johannesburg who did something, and that something was rapidly whipping around to face Keith and deliver one of her famous snide remarks.

“Mr. Katana,” She sneered. “I’m sure we’d all love to take a lesson from you in Maths, wouldn’t we? After all, not many of us have received the honor of getting straight F’s in this year.”

Keith visibly winced. “Sorry.”

Keith dug out his notebook and sighed, he honestly hated this class from the bottom of his heart.

Five thousand zillion bajillion years later, or maybe not, it just felt like that to Keith, the class was over. Keith stuck his hand back inside his bag to pull out his science notebook when his hand clasped around a familiar shape.

“My sketchbook!” He exclaimed in surprise.

Eris burst into peals of uncontrollable laughter as she looked into the camera of her phone.

“And that is how to trick a Keith!” She beamed into the mike.

“Oh. My. God.” Keith’s jaw dropped onto the floor. “It was you! You lying, sneaky, dirty, piece of-”

“And this is the part where you-” She was cur off short but a guttural yell from Keith as she sprang to her feet and sprinted in the direction of Zack.

“RUN!” She laughed into the phone as they darted around chairs and dived under desks.

Eris was stopped short by Keith catching both her legs as she flailed her arms and planted face-first in the ground as her other friends gathered around.

Keith placed a leg on her head, retrieved the phone and put in the ending shot.

“Okay, so, Zack and Connie,” Keith stated. “What have we learned today?”

“Never mess with Keith’s sketchbooks,” They solemnly spoke in unison. Or, you’ll get it.”

“Well spoken, my friends,” Keith spoke smugly. “Understood, Eris?”

“Get off my face,” Was Eris’ groaned response. “God, you’re such a dork.”

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13 Reasons Why- You Never Really Needed to Die – A Poem Based on the Novel by Jay Asher

“13  Reasons Why” is a riveting read, no doubt. But I guess , for me, the most important thing about this book is to realize that it is 13 reasons why not to..

(Given my rebel gene, I would have said, 13 reasons you should have been a serial killer , but I digress..)

This poem is a result of  that feeling …

If rumors based on a first kiss spreading is your first reason why,
Then you never really needed to die.
You should have stood up for yourself, been bold and strong
Go on, give it a try.

If getting your name on a list in a perverted kind of way is your second reason why,
Then you never really needed to die.
You should have thought to yourself, it’s just a list,
It doesn’t determine the way your life flies.

If your best friend betraying you because of a rumor she heard is your third reason why,
Then you never really needed to die.
You should have steeled yourself, not accepting fault for none of yours,
Not cried to yourself, she did this to me, why?

If someone taking nude candid shots of you is your fourth reason why,
Then you never really needed to die.
You should have slapped that intruder across his face,
And exposed him for all his ‘passionate fire’.

If a friend being fake is your fifth reason why,
Then you never really needed to die.
You should have left her alone, for that’s all she’s worth,
Entertaining a fake friend is like sitting on a live wire.

If your date leaving you hanging is your sixth reason why,
Then you never really needed to die.
You should have known that it didn’t really matter to you,
Made him realize his consequences were dire.

If someone stealing your positive compliments is your seventh reason why,
Then you never really needed to die.
You should have believed in yourself, not relied on others,
Because in this game of life, you shouldn’t ever tire.

If the school dissecting your personal poem is your eighth reason why,
Then you never really needed to die.
You should have stood tall, unfazed, by the commotion of it all,
Even if, by now, your mind has gone haywire.

If not having a shoulder to cry on but too many emotions is your ninth reason why,
Then you never really needed to die.
You should have written them down and torn them up,
Let them go like the wind flies.

If not standing up to a rapist is your tenth reason why,
Then you never really needed to die.
You should have told some, confided in authority,
Bring it up, don’t let the issue slide.

If being witness to the incident that caused the death of a student is your eleventh reason why,
Then you never really needed to die.
You should have called the police right then and there,
In secrecy, do not confide.

If feeling so done you give into wrong doings is your twelfth reason why,
Then you never really needed to die.
You should have strengthened your spirits, shown what you’re made of,
Into a night of guilty pleasure, don’t capsize.

If not being offered sufficient concern is your thirteenth reason why,
Then you never really needed to die.
You should have searched for comfort from yourself, or others you can trust,
Don’t add fuel to the funeral pyre.

Don’t ever give up.

Don’t give up your entire life for someone who is not even worth a moment of your time! 

 

 

Unbroken – Putting together the pieces!

Shoutout to The Duckbill Blog, for commenting on my Summer Reading List and suggesting Unbroken, a book that rendered me speechless and touched my heart and soul. Three cheers for Nandita Nambi!

The author has done an amazing job of portraying a teenager’s mental drama and angst.(like Dumbledore says.. “Just because it is happening in your mind doesn’t mean it is not real” ).

..and without romance. So First YAY!!! for  YA novel without romance. Yes, there are a whole bunch of heart-wrenching romance and even action stories with touching romances, I’ve read quite a few. The Fault in Our Stars (Hazel and Augustus), The House of Hades (both Percabeth and Percico), The Lost Oracle (Solangelo), and of course, The Cursed Child (Scorbus, duh.) (Parents, you don’t need to look this up if you don’t already know. It’s a teenage thing.).  But I was really glad the novel steered cleared of diluting this experience with an ill fitting romantic interest.

The characters are well-crafted, completely realistic and relatable. The book is  not much about the events, but the whirlwind of emotions that wrap around you.  And our protagonist, Akriti, is the centre of it all. She’s rude, mean, aggressive, sarcastic and doesn’t care about  her studies or other people’s feelings. Then she has a ridiculously perfect younger brother, and her parents fight. She sketches (dark of course) and listens to music, shutting out the rest of the world. Just another petulant teen stuck in her daily troubles? …but wait.

Can you blame her? She’s paralysed from the waist down.  But  at no point does the author try to make her likable , rise above her pain heroically or arouse our sympathy. (Quite unlike Wonder where you are rooting for Augustus).

The story is from her POV and her anger, frustration and disgust seethes through her pain. As I read, finding her behaviour largely unacceptable yet I could see myself there.. wanting to be strong rather than wallow in sympathy, angry rather than accept her pain, be scary rather than get hurt.

What I loved ?  While talking about disability in an honest and unpatronizing way itself is no mean feat, here are a few other aspects I loved:

  1. Sibling Rivalry – Don’t you hate it when your sibling can do stuff that you can’t? Whether it’s effortlessness completing a jigsaw puzzle that took you hours or churning out amazing projects done in the last minute, for which you take weeks, living in the shadow of your sibling is something a kid never wants to face. Forget the accomplishments, how do you deal with it when they are just a better human being than you are?
    Yet beneath the permanent tiff and I -wish- you- weren’t- born, there is an inexplicable deep love and  those tender moments between brother and sister ..reminded me grudgingly of a few of my own.
  2. Fights between Parents/ elders –  The pain and the torture  of having the very people who are supposed to be raising you, fighting  and blaming  each other… for your mistakes? Really, while  I saw her shut them out sometimes, label them and even exploit them, I pondered about similar arguments and what I may have thought of them  inadvertently.
  3. Seeing a Shrink – Again a rather rarely written about topic,  a child who sees a psychiatrist when she is not crazy or has not had a nervous or emotional breakdown yet...simply because sometimes  the expertise helps and sometimes having a neutral person makes it much each to talk. ..or listen.
  4. Smoking – Though this wasn’t an objective, there was a slight undertone on the importance of not smoking. The protagonist’s friend, Karthik, tries smoking and she’s repulsed by it and snatches the pack away from him. Smoking is not cool.. take one look at the images of its aftereffects (mom thrust some seriously gory images of lung cancer at me and pretty sensible statistics) and you’ll be scarred for life. Why would you choose to breathe in extra pollution anyway?

sauxmlzlsm-1493530375I also loved the Cover art, all fragile , handle with care symbols, a wheelchair and  a stamp declaring UNBROKEN.  (not sure if the leg symbol with a cross and a temp sign were chosen on purpose..but it is beginning to give me an idea for my door sign!) 

So there it is, a book that I loved and a  recommended #must-read for teens that go through life sulking, mad at life, complaining and screaming about its unfairness, hurt when often just a change of attitude is all that is required..to start sketching rainbows and unicorns again. (ok ..that was a bit too much :))

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Reading Bucket List – From this Pre-Teen to Yours!

 

Summer vacations have finally started, so I’m super pumped up and ready to read! (And avoid studying Hindi.)

Ah, summer break. A time for leisure, recreation, and taking ‘er easy. Unless you’re me. (If you get this reference, I will love you for life!)

The life of a voracious reader has never been easy. The constant search for good books, the trouble of keeping up your grades at the same time, and of course, floating various extracurricular activities like guitar, swimming, taekwondo, breakdance and music as well.

But that’s why you need a little help, and hence my  list so you don’t miss the very best ones..as per me anyway!

So here’s my list of books to read for the summer, if you haven’t read them already.

  1. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins – I’ve already written a detailed review for this series here but I still felt the need to feature it here, since it still has me writing fanfiction. After the destruction of North America, Panem is created. With 12 districts that are penniless, and a Capitol that kills their citizens for their pure amusement and to establish their superiority, a rebellion is bound to happen. With a captivating plot, a dystopian setting and unrequited romance, it has it all. I’m pretty sure it’ll have you eating out of its palm…er, pages?
  2. Wonder by R J Palacio – Another book with a detailed review, this book is a wonderful read for children and their parents alike, teaching them to be a little more kinder than necessary. August ‘Auggie’ Pullman, a smart and talented kid, talks and acts normal…until you see his face. A story so well written, you can almost see it happening. And the sad part, that’s actually true…it doesn’t matter whether its a rare facial disorder or just simply being overweight, kids are getting bullied, and this is one such story that will tug at your heartstrings.
  3. Like Smoke by Paro Anand –  With a detailed review here, all I need to say is the story takes credit for its relatability to the struggles of teen and pre-teen life. This book is very useful if you have a hard time squeezing in reading into your schedule. With short story that can be read anytime, anywhere, you can get books back into your system…and this one will have you coming back for more.
  4. Chained by Lynne Kelly – I read this book in fourth grade and I was a complete wreck. After ten-year-old Hastin’s family borrows money to pay for his sister’s hospital bill, he leaves his village in northern India to take a job as an elephant keeper and work off the debt, meeting his new best friend.  The pure, moving, and undeniable tale of friendship with the elephant and Hastin’s compassion, a wondrous power to love and strength beyond his years is sure to linger in your mind. This is a book that will impact your life and change your viewpoint on most things.
  5. Talking Of Muskaan by Himanjali Sankar – A book to chew on. At first, I didn’t really know whether I should add this book to the list, since it revolves around a controversial plot. The story of an attempted suicide and the events that lead up to it, written by the three people closest to her – her ex-best friend (Aaliya), the stereotypical rich kid who plays golf and polo and is hugely affronted when Muskaan declines to go out with him (Prateek), her current friend, whose family struggles to make ends meet, and is single-minded in his pursuit of academic excellence (Subhojoy). This strong and soulful book points out the some poignant problems of adolescent life, and how picking at a small difference can change someone’s life, and almost destroy it.

Have another must read favourite ? Do share in the comments

 

 

 

Jobless, Clueless, Reckless (Revathi Suresh) – The Tale of a Barbie Murderer

Jobless, Clueless, Reckless. The story of Kavya, who acts like your average teenager –  angsty, miserable, lovestruck, whiny, and wanting nothing more than  to “scratch her life out and start over.” Since this is a story, our protagonist simply must be different from everyone else, and so Kavya will endures emotionally distant parents and a precocious brother, and can’t seem to make any friends. It doesn’t help that she is homeschooled, dresses in black and a reputation as a murderer of Barbies and, most probably, little kids as well. Oh, and her brother likes pink and cross-stitch, and wants to advertise the fact to the whole world, and her address is 708, Kansas, Grand Canyon, Bangalore, India.

Carnatic music-singer-slash-Party-queen Indu’s two lives, a friend who ‘disappeared’, and of course, dreamy greek god Kiran, are thrown together in a classic bad-boy-meets-emo tale of drama, love and mystery.

Cast:
Kavya – The fake emo with a secret
Indu – The salwar-kameez wearing wild partier, who also shoplifts
Lara – The backstabber with all the gossip
Dhrittiman – Cross-stitch kid who also loves pink
Abhi – Dumbalina

And of course,
Kiran – The non-Zac Efron, who’s also not a gentleman

Okay, I’ve overdone the mockery, but still, this book was disappointing to read. I expected this book to be more than just a cliche. I never knew what happened to Kavya’s mom, why her Kavya’s dad left, what was up with Dhrittiman (Kavya’s younger brother), and how come Niya and Lara pretended they were her friends?

While the book isn’t all that bad, the humour is just masterfully done. But saddens me to think that many who read this book have considered this an accurate representation of the lives that many teens lead.  I think I might be finding this a little distasteful because I prefer adventure/romance stories, and not just teenage romance. I found the extensive use of foul language for no reason unreasonable, pointless, and just plain annoying.

The tone I felt it was Kavya’s rant, and would have been better to read if it had a bit more emotion and confession, since she’s pouring her feelings out into a diary. I like the idea and flow of the events, and wished there was more story around each one.

And I would have liked to see Kavya tie up  or atleast face the many other areas of her life that we are introduced to …not just her love life.

For me , this book is something to read once  but if you like chick-flicks, this will be your soulmate!