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 :))






The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) – A Book to KILL for!

The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins topped my reading list for the year 2016 with its unusual plot and twists where you least expect it. I am penning a single review  of the three books as a whole series, rather than individually…because  you will end up picking it up as set( I was gifted one too:)) and simply because you are unlikely to stop after one!

It’s set in the dystopian city of Panem, where the governing body or the ‘Capitol’ send two children, aged twelve or older, from each of the 12 districts, to their death in a game meant for their amusement, so they can sit and watch children scream in pain as they’re mauled, stabbed or shot by each other, while the Capitol eats roast turkey at the dinner table. Great conversation starter, right?

When Katniss is determined to come out alive along with her fellow tribute Peeta, things get a little bit dicey. They decide to play out an tragic ‘star-crossed lovers’ story, where they’re outright refusing to kill me each other due to their ‘undying’ love for each other. Sort of like, if the Capitol wants drama, we’ll give you drama!

And if there wasn’t a plot twist to a book like this, that would be doing injustice to this book (and this review). However, there isn’t just one plot twist, there’s two! These two major twists lead to the formation of a love triangle and multiple blackmail scenarios.
A perfect blend of suspense, creativity and romance, The Hunger Games had me hooked. This book had me practically screaming ‘Why, Peeta why?’ at his dramatic acts and squealing at Everlark moments. (In case you didn’t know, Everlark is the pairing of Katniss and Peeta.)
My favorite character has to be Katniss. Cliché, but true. Katniss is everything an independent warrior should be – rock strong, cunning, understanding, amazingly accurate aim, and a rebellious spirit. She changes drastically when thrown into the Hunger Games, from a girl concerned about her sister’s duck-tailed dress, to someone responsible for the rise of a rebellion. Katniss, has one weak point – the ones she cares about. In Mockingjay, when Peeta’s memories have been tampered with, he sees Katniss as someone evil, Katniss gets upset and tends to blow a fuse when people mention Peeta.
A thing I didn’t like? I’m not a big fan of romance. At some points in time, I can’t stand it, especially as it wiggles its way into every Young Adult novel . I know I said it was a perfect blend, but yet it keeps me from reading the book to its full potential. (Even while reading The House of Hades, part of my favorite series, I had to skim through the chapters set in either Percy or Annabeth’s point of view.)
Recommendations? I almost said Everyone must read it…The deaths and torture of the tributes are described in agonizing detail,  are certainly painful to read. Yet, I found the book simply amazing.(Creepy?) I bet you’ll be hooked until the end of Mockingjay. However, I would suggest the very young preteens to wait until they have a stomach for some pain.
It’s thought-provoking as the reality of the book weighs on you when you put it down. The book makes you ponder about authority, governments, freedom, sacrifice and love. Do the ends justify the means? In the end, can you be yourself  and not succumb to judgement in world where power, wealth , celebrity status rule? In short, can you be human in an inhumane situation…
My favourite quote from the book “Hope is the only thing stronger than fear”
Lastly, it has a -severely disappointing- movie. Please avoid. Whatever version you made up in your head about these while reading the  books, it will be 100 times better than this movie. I promise! There you have been warned.
Let the Games..errr..reading begin!

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.)