11 YA Novels Of 2021 With South Asian Representation That Should Be On Your TBR

What a great time to be alive! Have you looked at the list of 2021 releases in Young Adult literature? One of my favorite things about YA is how it’s constantly trying to push its boundaries, how it’s not afraid to experiment, and mostly, currently, how of all age-categories, it’s actively pushing for diversity.

We are still a long long way off from seeing equal representation, but 2021 will probably see more diverse rep than before, and I’m excited about that.

Here are some 2021 YA books with South Asian rep (by rep I mean that a main character is of South Asian descent) I’m most excited about that should definitely be on your TBR!

This list only includes standalone novels or the first in a series releasing in 2021.

HANI AND ISHU’S GUIDE TO FAKE DATING by Adiba Jaigirdar

Release date: May 25, 2021

About:

When Humaira “Hani” Khan comes out to her friends as bisexual, they immediately doubt her. Apparently, she can’t be bi if she’s only dated guys. Cornered into proving her sexuality, she tells them she’s dating someone—Ishita “Ishu” Dey, the straight A student who seems more concerned with studying than relationships.

When Hani approaches her about fake dating, she agrees on one condition–that Hani help her become more popular so she can win the school’s head girl election. It’s the perfect plan to help them achieve their goals, until Hani’s friends become jealous that she’s spending more time with Ishu. They’ll do everything they can to drive a wedge between them and ruin Ishu’s chances of becoming head girl.

Now, Hani has a decision to make: does she break off her relationship with Ishu for the sake of her friends? Or does she tell Ishu how she really feels and turn their “fake” relationship into something real?

Rep: Features Bangladeshi/Bengali main characters.

Read the first chapter here! Add to Goodreads

ZARA HOSSAIN IS HERE by Sabina Khan

Release date: April 6, 2021

About:

Seventeen-year-old Pakistani immigrant, Zara Hossain, has been leading a fairly typical life in Corpus Christi, Texas, since her family moved there for her father to work as a pediatrician. While dealing with the Islamophobia that she faces at school, Zara has to lay low, trying not to stir up any trouble and jeopardize their family’s dependent visa status while they await their green card approval, which has been in process for almost nine years.

But one day her tormentor, star football player Tyler Benson, takes things too far, leaving a threatening note in her locker, and gets suspended. As an act of revenge against her for speaking out, Tyler and his friends vandalize Zara’s house with racist graffiti, leading to a violent crime that puts Zara’s entire future at risk. Now she must pay the ultimate price and choose between fighting to stay in the only place she’s ever called home or losing the life she loves and everyone in it.

From the author of the “heart-wrenching yet hopeful” (Samira Ahmed) novel, The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali, comes a timely, intimate look at what it means to be an immigrant in America today, and the endurance of hope and faith in the face of hate.

Rep: The book features a Pakistani immigrant.

Read an excerpt here! Add to Goodreads

COUNTING DOWN WITH YOU by Tashie Bhuiyan

Release Date: May 4, 2021

About:

Karina Ahmed has a plan. Keep her head down, get through high school without a fuss, and follow her parents’ rules—even if it means sacrificing her dreams. When her parents go abroad to Bangladesh for four weeks, Karina expects some peace and quiet. Instead, one simple lie unravels everything.

Karina is my girlfriend.

Tutoring the school’s resident bad boy was already crossing a line. Pretending to date him? Out of the question. But Ace Clyde does everything right—he brings her coffee in the mornings, impresses her friends without trying, and even promises to buy her a dozen books (a week) if she goes along with his fake-dating facade. Though Karina agrees, she can’t help but start counting down the days until her parents come back.

T-minus twenty-eight days until everything returns to normal—but what if Karina no longer wants it to?

Rep: Features a Bangladeshi protagonist.

Read an excerpt here! Add to Goodreads

AMERICAN BETIYA by Anuradha D. Rajurkar

Release date: March 9, 2021

About:

Rani Kelkar has never lied to her parents, until she meets Oliver. The same qualities that draw her in–his tattoos, his charisma, his passion for art–make him her mother’s worst nightmare.

They begin dating in secret, but when Oliver’s troubled home life unravels, he starts to ask more of Rani than she knows how to give, desperately trying to fit into her world, no matter how high the cost. When a twist of fate leads Rani from Evanston, Illinois to Pune, India for a summer, she has a reckoning with herself–and what’s really brewing beneath the surface of her first love.

Winner of the SCBWI Emerging Voices award, Anuradha Rajurkar takes an honest look at the ways cultures can clash in an interracial relationship. Braiding together themes of sexuality, artistic expression, and appropriation, she gives voice to a girl claiming ownership of her identity, one shattered stereotype at a time.

Rep: Features an Indian American protagonist.

Read an excerpt here! Add to Goodreads

THE WILD ONES by Nafiza Azad

Release date: August 3, 2021

About:

Meet the Wild Ones: girls who have been hurt, abandoned, and betrayed all their lives. It all began with Paheli, who was once betrayed by her mother and sold to a man in exchange for a favor. When Paheli escapes, she runs headlong into a boy with stars in his eyes. This boy, as battered as she is, tosses Paheli a box of stars before disappearing.

With the stars, Paheli gains access to the Between, a place of pure magic and mystery. Now, Paheli collects girls like herself and these Wild Ones use their magic to travel the world, helping the hopeless and saving others from the fates they suffered.

Then Paheli and the Wild Ones learn that the boy who gave them the stars, Taraana, is in danger. He’s on the run from powerful forces within the world of magic. But if Taraana is no longer safe and free, neither are the Wild Ones. And that…is a fate the Wild Ones refuse to accept. Ever again. 

Rep: This book features mutiracial characters, including a main character of South Asian descent.

Read an excerpt here! Add to Goodreads

THE KNOCKOUT by Sajni Patel

Release date: January 26, 2021

About:

If seventeen-year-old Kareena Thakkar is going to alienate herself from the entire Indian community, she might as well do it gloriously. She’s landed the chance of a lifetime, an invitation to the US Muay Thai Open, which could lead to a spot on the first-ever Olympic team. If only her sport wasn’t seen as something too rough for girls, something she’s afraid to share with anyone outside of her family. Despite pleasing her parents, exceling at school, and making plans to get her family out of debt, Kareena’s never felt quite Indian enough, and her training is only making it worse.

Which is inconvenient, since she’s starting to fall for Amit Patel, who just might be the world’s most perfect Indian. Admitting her feelings for Amit will cost Kareena more than just her pride–she’ll have to face his parents’ disapproval, battle her own insecurities, and remain focused for the big fight. Kareena’s bid for the Olympics could very well make history—if she has the courage to go for it.

Rep: Features an Indian protagonist.

Add to Goodreads

RADHA AND JAI’S RECIPE FOR ROMANCE by Nisha Sharma

Release date: July 13, 2021

About:

Radha is on the verge of becoming one of the greatest Kathak dancers in the world . . . until a family betrayal costs her the biggest competition of her life. Now, she has left her Chicago home behind to follow her stage mom to New Jersey. At the Princeton Academy of the Arts, Radha is determined to leave performing in her past, and reinvent herself from scratch.

Jai is captain of the Bollywood Beats dance team, ranked first in his class, and an overachiever with no college plans. Tight family funds means medical school is a pipe dream, which is why he wants to make the most out of high school. When Radha enters his life, he realizes she’s the exact ingredient he needs for a show-stopping senior year.

With careful choreography, both Radha and Jai will need to face their fears (and their families) if they want a taste of a happily ever after.

Rep: This book features Indian main characters.

Read an excerpt here! Add to Goodreads

SISTERS OF THE SNAKE by Sasha Nanua and Sarena Nanua

Release date: June 15, 2021

About:

A lost princess. A dark puppet master. And a race against time—before all is lost.

Princess Rani longs for a chance to escape her gilded cage and prove herself. Ria is a street urchin, stealing just to keep herself alive.

When these two lives collide, everything turns on its head: because Ria and Rani, orphan and royal, are unmistakably identical.

A deal is struck to switch places—but danger lurks in both worlds, and to save their home, thief and princess must work together. Or watch it all fall into ruin.

Deadly magic, hidden temples, and dark prophecies: Sisters of the Snake is an action-packed, immersive fantasy that will thrill fans of The Crown’s Game and The Tiger at Midnight.

Rep: This is an India-inspired fantasy featuring protagonists of Indian descent.

Add to Goodreads

THE LADY OR THE LION by Aamna Qureshi

Release date: June 22, 2021

About:

Once there was a princess forced to choose a fate for her lover-to a future in the arms of a beautiful lady, or to death in the mouth of a lion? But what came first was the fate she would choose for herself.

As crown princess of Marghazar, Durkhanai Miangul will do anything to protect her people and her land. When her grandfather, the Badshah, is blamed for a deadly assault on the summit of neighboring leaders, the tribes call for his head. To assuage cries for war, the Badshah opens Marghazar’s gates to foreigners for the first time in centuries, in a sign of good faith. Enter Ambassador Asfandyar Afridi, a wry foreigner who admits outright that he is a spy. Stubborn, proud, and suspicious of foreigners, Durkhanai does not appreciate that he won’t bow to her every whim and instead talks circles around her.

And yet, she has to make him her ally to expose those truly responsible for the attack as more ambassadors from neighboring tribal districts arrive at court, each one of them with their own agenda and reasons to hide the truth.When a mysterious illness spreads through the village and the imperialists push hard on her borders, Durkhanai must sort through the ever shifting loyalties at court and her growing feelings for Asfandyar. Will she be able to leave the antics of a spoiled princess behind and become what her people need-a queen? 

Rep: This book features Pakistani main characters.

Add to Goodreads

SISTER OF THE BOLLYWOOD WIFE by Nandini Bajpai

Release date: May 25, 2021

About:

Mini’s big sister, Vinnie, is getting married. Their mom passed away seven years ago and between Dad’s new start-up and Vinnie’s medical residency, there’s no one but Mini to plan the wedding. Dad raised her to know more about computers, calculus, and cars than desi weddings but from the moment Mini held the jewelry Mom left them, she wanted her sister to have the wedding Mom would’ve planned.

Now Mini has only two months to get it done and she’s not going to let anything distract her, not even the persistent, mysterious, and smoking-hot Vir Mirchandani. Flower garlands, decorations, music, even a white wedding horse — everything is in place.

That is, until a monster hurricane heads for Boston that could ruin everything. Will Mini come through as sister of the bride and save the day?

Rep: Features an Indian protagonist.

Add to Goodreads

SUNNY G’S SERIES OF RASH DECISIONS by Navdeep Singh Dhillon

COVER TO BE RELEASED

Release date: May 4, 2021

About:

Sunny G’s brother left him one thing when he died: his notebook, which he’s determined to fill up with a series of rash decisions. Decision number one was a big one: He took off his turban, cut off his hair, and shaved his beard. He doesn’t look like a Sikh anymore; he doesn’t look like himself anymore. He put on a suit and debuted his new look at prom, but apparently changing his look doesn’t change everything. Sunny still doesn’t fit there, and all he wants to do is go to the Harry Potter after-party, where his best friend, Ngozi, and their band were supposed to be playing a show tonight.

Enter Mindii Vang, a girl he’s never met before but who’s about to change his life. Sunny and Mindii head off on an all-night adventure through their city–a night full of rash, wonderful, romantic, stupid, huge decisions.

Rep: This book features a Punjabi protagonist.

Add to Goodreads

This is in no way a comprehensive list, and there are still new deals coming through, but I’m so, so excited for these authors and their books. I cannot wait to dive into these releases!

Please mention any book I may have missed out on in the comments. Also, which book are you most excited for this year?

Latinx Voices: Interview with Gabriela Martins, author of LIKE A LOVE SONG

Hi and welcome to the first interview of the revamped Chai and Chapters!

I’m so excited to be talking to Gabriela Martins, author of the upcoming YA Romace LIKE A LOVE SONG (out in 2021!) as part of Latinx Heritage Month.

I’ve been so looking forward to LIKE A LOVE SONG ever since the deal announcement came out in Publisher’s Weekly. I mean, hello, Latina pop star and fake dating trope—what’s not to love?

Here’s the deal announcement so you know what I’m talking about.

You can add it on Goodreads here.

Gabriela very kindly and enthusiastically agreed to this interview and it was so much fun (as you will find out when you read on), and honestly, this book should be high on your 2021 radar if it isn’t already.

Ahhh, Gabriela, welcome to Chai and Chapters. I’m thrilled to have you here before you’re swept up by interviews once LIKE A LOVE SONG is out, because I know that it’s going to be phenomenal. Tell us something about LIKE A LOVE SONG that’s not there in the summary.

First of all, thank you so much for reaching out. I’m honored to be featured in Chai And Chapters!

The one bed trope! LOL. Other than that, there’s a whole lot of friendship and family talk. Both Nati and William are family-people in their own way, and it was important for me that they kept their priorities straight. Nati’s relationship with her best friends is also very important throughout the book. Hmmm let me see, what else! All of the main characters, with the exception of Nati, are queer. William’s bisexual, and so is Brenda, and Padma is gay. Hm hm hm hm! There’s a trip! Some random Brazilian history facts! I love trivia so there’s some randomness in there as well.

Gahh, is it possible to love your book anymore? Because I do. What was the origin story for LIKE A LOVE SONG?

The origin is a whole lot of depression. I’m saying this while smiling, because it sounds absurd, but it really is how this story got started. I’d always written very dark books, but when I started this story, I was in a very dark moment of my life, and nothing I started gained traction.

Then I decided to try writing a romcom. I’d always read them, but had never written one before… and it was so, so good for me. I fell in love with the characters immediately. While they handled their fair share of serious problems, the upbeat tone of a romantic comedy gave me the space I needed to start reevaluating my own problems. I looked forward to sitting down and writing this story every day. It was a major source of light and happiness for me, so I hope it is for you too!

This is so important. I don’t think romantic comedies get their due in litverse, but they have also kept me alive during this whole pandemic. What was the best thing about writing LIKE A LOVE SONG?

How much I fell in love with writing romcoms! I loved the rhythm of the beats, the fast-paced dialogue-heavy moments, the awkward and the swoony! I can’t see myself not writing romcoms anymore. 

Already looking forward to the rest! And the hardest thing about writing LIKE A LOVE SONG?

There is a lot of discussion of not feeling welcome/part of your own community in the book. Nati immigrated from Brazil to the United States when she was a young child, and therefore she has very conflicting feelings about her Latinidade. I share a lot of these feelings, but on a different scale. I’m not from the diaspora—I was born and raised in Brazil. But there are tons of aspects of claiming Latinidade, either online or when traveling, that feel odd to me. That aspect was both nerve-wrecking and empowering to write about.

As a South Asian blogger and aspiring writer, I feel this. There’s so much attached to how much of your identity is valid based on how well you perform your identity as per gatekeeping standards. Tell me about your favorite tropes. How many of them do we get to see in LIKE A LOVE SONG?

Fake dating is my absolute fave, and it’s definitely the biggest trope in the book! As I mentioned above, there’s also the one bed trope that I adore! There are a few tropes that I subvert a bit, so I’ll leave those a secret for now. Some of the tropes that I love but aren’t featured in this book: rivals to lovers, childhood best friends to enemies to lovers, reluctant chosen one, and found family.

The one bed trope both mortifies me and thrills me, lmao. Tell us the top 5 books by Latinx authors on your list right now.

Have you all read BLAZEWRATH GAMES by Amparo Ortiz yet? I’m obsessed! I’m super into FURIA by Yamile Saied Méndez. I couldn’t not mention Lucas Rocha’s WHERE WE GO FROM HERE, Laura Pohl’s scifi duology THE LAST 8 and THE FIRST 7. To finish my recs, one of my all-time faves: PERLA by Carolina de Robertis. 

Those are some fantastic recommendations. On that note, what are you currently reading?

Alright, so I’m a big language nerd. I’m currently reading SHORT STORIES IN NORWEGIAN by Olly Richards. LOL Before that, I reread SAPIENS by Yuval Noah Harari, which reinforces that I am, in fact, a big nerd. As soon as I finish the book of short stories, though, I’m starting UNDEAD GIRL GANG by Lily Anderson. Super excited about it!

We are all nerds here, so you’re in the right community, haha. What do you hope readers take away from reading LIKE A LOVE SONG?

You are perfect the way you are. You are accepted. You are loved. We all have your back. ❤

Those are words to live by! What’s a writing advice you swear by?

The writing advice I swear by is that no writing advice is actually good. Here in Brazil there’s a saying: if advice was any good, we’d charge for them! LOL.

There’s a lot of dos and don’ts and I personally feel that they all can be subverted, especially if you’re writing from the Global South, where stories can be told in different beats and still greatly succeed. While I plan my beats carefully, I don’t fully subscribe to the idea that a story has to be told a certain way for it to work.

Also, the way I write may not be the best for you, and the way I write one story is not even similar to the way I write my next. I’ve completed almost twenty manuscripts by now, and they were all written differently. Some very fast, some slowly, some with ideas that spurred overnight, some that had been taking form in my subconscious for a decade. It’s different every time, for everyone.

If I absolutely do need to give advice, my advice is this: be creative with your process. Be open to change.

Being open to change is something we could all use in all walks of life ❤ To top off this interview, if wishes were horses, what’s your biggest writing dream?

I have a ton! Right now, what I would love the most would be to know that my book made a difference in someone’s life, and brought them a little light. :’)

This has been an absolute pleasure and honor, Gabriela!

_______________________________

About Gabriela Martins:

GABRIELA MARTINS is a Brazilian kidlit author and linguist. Her stories feature Brazilian characters finding themselves and love. She was a high school teacher and has also worked as a TED Ed-Club facilitator, where she helped teens develop their own talks in TED format to present. She edited and self-published a pro-bono LGBTQ+ anthology (KEEP FAITH) with all funds going to queer people in need. Gabriela also used to host monthly webinars with themes ranging from Linguistics in Fiction to Self-Care for Writers. She was recently selected as a Pitch Wars mentor for 2020. Her debut, LIKE A LOVE SONG (Underlined/PRH) comes out in summer 2021. Find her on Twitter at @gabhimartins, on Instagram at @gabhi, and visit her website at gabrielawrites.com.

Hope you enjoyed this! See you all soon.

For the love of Young Adult fiction: A confession and a comeback.

Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I blogged. I mean, I know, the date of my previous post is up there—some 5(00) years ago—but that doesn’t mean anything.

I know I wrote at least a dozen posts after that and never published them because somewhere along the line, I lost the plot. I was studying for a Masters degree in English Literature and blogging about Young Adult fiction. The two didn’t seem to go along. Or at least, that’s what my classmates indicated.

You can’t be studying serious literature and gushing Young Adult.

And I’m embarrassed to say, I listened. For a while.

It’s not that I stopped reading YA (How could I? Have you read YA? Those books are unputdownable, soul-fulfilling.) but I would read in secret and I wouldn’t talk about what I was reading. If anyone asked me what my favorite books were, I would quote the classics or something taken more seriously that wouldn’t make anyone frown or look at me with an expression that basically said why are you even doing a Masters in English Literature?

I let that get to me for a couple of years. Then once I graduated, instead of getting into further academics like most of my classmates, I worked as an editor for one of the big publishing houses.

Anyway, YA never let go of me, even though I tried to, you know, play grown up <insert eye roll>. On a side note, if playing grown up is pretending to like things you don’t, it’s incredibly boring.

I read and I secretly wrote YA, although I never got around to blogging about it, because life came in the way—a full time job, adult duties, and the default state of being perpetually tired.

Till, the pandemic.

I know, I know, the pandemic hasn’t exactly been the time to get creative (aside from the 500 baking challenges that took off early on). Heck, I couldn’t even get any writing down for three whole months.

I woke up one day incredibly bummed about the direction (or lack thereof) my life was taking, especially now that I was on self-inflicted house arrest since (yep, you guessed it) MARCH! I needed to do something, but not just anything. I needed those words back. I needed to not only fall into the magic of stories but find ways to talk about my immense love for them.

I decided to log on to my old Netgalley account and wow! The lists of all these books coming out in the next few months and in the next year bowled me over. These were incredible books by incredible authors.

YA publishing is currently having a renaissance moment, with diverse and own voices stories finding their own space and getting into the hands of readers who’ve never seen themselves represented on the page. Like, me. If you go through my review index from my old blog, you’ll notice there are hardly books by authors of color. Because there were hardly YA books by authors of color. Or even if there were, they weren’t promoted enough to be accessible to someone outside of the United States like me.

Angie Thomas‘ 2015 debut THE HATE U GIVE (that I could get my hands on in 2016) showed publishers that if given the chance, books by BIPOC authors sell, and how! It’s been on the NYT bestsellers list for every week since it came out.

For the first time, in 2020 (of all years!), in the history of fiction, a book featuring trans (that too, trans Latinx) characters written by a trans author has made it to the New York Times Bestseller list (2 weeks and counting). That book, CEMETERY BOYS by Aidan Thomas, happens to be YA too.

There are SO many books. SO MANY to read and talk about.

I wanted in on that.

Reading is the only thing that has kept me sane this year. Reading is the only thing that helped me get anything written this year, made me want to write more, and better.

And by reading, I mean reading YA.

I love how it’s a time of firsts, a balance of both innocence and darkness, how emotions are heightened, and how, at the end of the day, there’s still hope.

I started blogging the first time around because I wanted to tell the world about my favorite books so everyone could read them, because honestly, if you’re here I’m sure you’ll agree—what better thing exists than reading?

This second time around, I’m going back to the basics. I want to talk about these wonderful books and hope that you’ll want to pick them up and somewhere along the line you’ll find something that speaks directly to you, because that’s the incredible power of stories.

So here I am. With a brand new blog (although should you go looking, you’ll find my old posts from my previous blog imported here) and a lot of hope.

I have a lot of exciting things planned for the next few months that I cannot wait to share with you. I hope you’ll stay.

Pick up that book. Pour in some chai.

I’m Bidisha. Welcome to Chai and Chapters.

PS. If you’re looking for mini book reviews and some book aesthetics, you can also follow me on my brand new bookstagram. 🙂

The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd

Book cover of The Vast Field of OrdinaryThe Vast Fields of Ordinary
by Nick Burd
Published on: May 1st, 2009

From Goodreads:

It’s Dade’s last summer at home, and things are pretty hopeless. He has a crappy job, a “boyfriend” who treats him like dirt, and his parents’ marriage is falling apart. So when he meets and falls in love with the mysterious Alex Kincaid, Dade feels like he’s finally experiencing true happiness. But when a tragedy shatters the final days of summer, he realizes he must face his future and learn how to move forward from his past.

My thoughts:

I read this book a year back. Yup. Long, long time. But just couldn’t get around to talking about it because I tend to lose my coherence when I end up liking something (which, I understand, is a terrible thing to admit on a book blog but whattodo!).

This book is one of my brother’s favourites (the kind that he re-read so much that he actually lost count of how many times he has read it) and he gave it to me at this time last year when I had no idea what I was doing with my life and made the impulsive decision to shift from Calcutta to New Delhi again.

Anyway. I moved to ND almost empty-handed (in terms of books, really) save for this. And thank god for that. What an ache-y, sensitive, beautiful book this was.

I believe the true test of a book lies in holding your attention and making you feel, really feel, when you’ve shut yourself from the rest of the world and kind of hit rock bottom. Everything stops mattering at this point. And if a book ends up mattering, well, you can guess how good a book that must be,

This is an extremely well-written book, exploring that time between high school and college when everything around you is changing and you are not quite sure if you want it to or maybe you’re just torn between wanting it to and not wanting it to. Dade is at that point, wanting to leave high school and his town behind but not quite sure how to, especially when he falls in love with the strangely alluring Alex Kincaid (fictional crush alert, yup). This is a book about relationships, complicated relationships – between divorcing parents, between parents and children with secret lives, between lovers and ex lovers, and it’s all very sensitively handled. It’s a book with a big heart and it’s essentially a bite of a-few-days-in-the-life-of-a-gay-teenager. And it’s done beautifully. And that makes all the difference.

I don’t know if Nick Burd has written any more books. I haven’t come across any more but I wish he does, because I would read it. He is immensely talented. It takes a deft hand to make the everyday so beautiful and significant.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles
by Madeline Miller
Published: September, 2011
Winner of the Orange Prize, 2012

From Goodreads:

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

My thoughts:

I don’t quite know where to begin with this book. When I finished it I wanted to talk about it immediately, but I refrained because I was too overwhelmed and I wanted to distance myself enough to look at it objectively.

Tried. Failed. Can’t. It’s been over a week and I’m still overwhelmed by it and I can’t keep myself from talking about it anymore.

I LOVED THIS BOOK.

It destroyed me and I loved it. 

When I was in school, I was obsessed with the Trojan war and when Brad Pitt and Eric Bana came together to play Achilles and Hector in that terrible movie, my teenage hormones went into overdrive. Back then I used to read up every book I could find on the Trojan war. 

Which makes you wonder what new thing could anyone offer on the Trojan war. It’s been told and re-told and dealt with and done with. What else? Well, a love story maybe. And not the Helen-Paris kind which, honestly, makes me roll my eyes too much. But, hello, Achilles and Patroclus! Madeline Miller hits it just right. Of all the things that somebody dealing with an epic retelling could try to take up, this love story is the crux of this story. This is no Trojan war retelling. The Trojan war is just a by-the-way detour (albeit the most important one) of the many detours that come in the way of Achilles and Patroclus’ story.

And.

This is quite possibly the greatest and most beautiful love story I’ve ever read. Madeline Miller has a way with words. She hits the right balance between literary and commercial. An epic setting and a glorious story of two boys from childhood to adulthood and thereafter. Of course, since I was familiar with the detailed story of the Trojan War, I knew where the book was heading and what would happen but that did not stop me, rather could not stop me, from reading this in one sitting. My housemate was appalled seeing that I had very conveniently skipped lunch and a bath and every other essential everyday thing for the book. When I finished the book at about 1 a.m. in the morning, in tears, right before the power went off for the next three hours, she was even further appalled. 
‘I’ve never seen or heard you cry over a real person before,’ she said. Oh, and she has known me for the last eight years.

Anywho. The point is, this book is going straight into my forever-favourites list. A week since reading it, just looking at the book on my shelf makes my heart all tight and big and it’s funny how it does both those things at once but THIS BOOK IS SO BEAUTIFUL I WANT TO CRY WHENEVER I TALK ABOUT IT.

AND I WANT TO TATTOO SOME OF THOSE LINES BECAUSE OMG SO GORGEOUS –

“I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.”

“I know. They never let you be famous AND happy.” He lifted an eyebrow. “I’ll tell you a secret.” “Tell me.” I loved it when he was like this. “I’m going to be the first.” He took my palm and held it to his. “Swear it.” “Why me?” “Because you’re the reason. Swear it.”

“This, I say. This and this. The way his hair looked in summer sun. His face when he ran. His eyes, solemn as an owl at lessons. This and this and this. So many moments of happiness, crowding forward.”

If you read only one book this year, let it be this.

Do you like historical fiction?

 

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

Everything Leads to You
by Nina LaCour
Published: May 15, 2014

From Goodreads:

A love letter to the craft and romance of film and fate in front of—and behind—the camera from the award-winning author ofHold Still. A wunderkind young set designer, Emi has already started to find her way in the competitive Hollywood film world. Emi is a film buff and a true romantic, but her real-life relationships are a mess. She has desperately gone back to the same girl too many times to mention. But then a mysterious letter from a silver screen legend leads Emi to Ava. Ava is unlike anyone Emi has ever met. She has a tumultuous, not-so-glamorous past, and lives an unconventional life. She’s enigmatic…. She’s beautiful. And she is about to expand Emi’s understanding of family, acceptance, and true romance.

My thoughts:

I’ve wanted to read a Nina LaCour novel for so long. I have Hold Still and The Disenchantments on my phone but somehow, life, ugh, and other books, hmmm, keep getting in the way. Thankfully, Everything Leads to You was a supersmooth ride and I had so much fun reading it and nowihavetoreadeverythingelsebyherYES.

I loved the Hollywood setting. I loved that there wasn’t the usual glitz and glamour you generally associate with the industry and all, because this is just regular people going about making a movie. And then our main character is a set designer, which I thought was the coolest nonclichedjobinabooksetinHollywoodEver. I don’t know how authentic the Hollywood setting was since I’ve, obviously, never been there, but it felt so real. No jarring edges and jagged ends, the plot fit in smoothly with the setting, the mystery and romance angles taking themselves along into the mix. It was a good book.

The characters were so well fleshed out and I’m not just talking about the two leads. I’m talking about EVERYONEOFTHEM – a certain someone’s certain ex, a random old couple who could just be passing through in the book but are equipped with such good moments that I remember them even months after reading the book.

The only complaint I’d have is to do with the romance, because there’s not much of that – but there are fantastic friendship portrayals and a perfect little Hollywood mystery and it’s the kind of book that throws you into quick-read mode (I read this in 3-4 metro rides; Yes, I read all my books on the metro these days. I’ve become one of those people) and it was good. It’s a one time read but a good one time read.

It’ll engross you and leave you with a smile.

Quite perfect for the summer.

All the Rage by Courtney Summers

All the Rage
by Courtney Summers
Release date: April 14th, 2015

From Goodreads:

The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear.

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women after an act of sexual violence, forcing us to ask ourselves: In a culture that refuses to protect its young girls, how can they survive?

My thoughts:

I read this in two sittings. On my way to work, and back. There was an 8 hour interval in between, because, you know, work – which almost killed me because HOLY CHRIST THIS BOOK. 
I love Courtney Summers. She is fucking fabulous. The things that Some Girls Are did to me, oh gosh, I can’t even gush enough. And Cracked Up To Be. My brother and I still debate over which we think is better. (We still haven’t come to a conclusion)
And then This. All The RageALL THE RAGE. This book is everything that Cracked Up To Be and Some Girls Are built up to. It’s like both those books actually were leading up to this. The running themes of sexual-assault, rape-culture, victim-blaming, slut-slamming – everything culminates in here and wow. 

I have to say, I don’t think the blurb does the book much justice. It appears too straightforward, when really, the devil’s in the details. Courtney Summers is such a brilliant writer. Her minimalist style is like poetry. She doesn’t tell, she casts shadows and in the shadows of what isn’t told, you get the chills.

I don’t know how to sound cohesive about this. It’s such an explosion of a book. And it talks of all the things that surround us all the fucking time but which we conveniently choose to ignore., because, hushmychildspeaknoevil.

In many ways, All The Rage reminded me of Fury by Australian author Shirley Mar, which is one of the best books I’ve read. I felt the same surge of anger and helplessness as I had felt when I’d read Fury some 4 years back. The rage. Yes, the rage is the unspoken kind, the one that bubbles just beneath the surface for months and years till it spills over. It’s such an universal rage against the way girls are treated in this world, at every fucking step, that lewd whisper in your ear as you go shopping or that silent eye-undressing that happens everysingleday – I thought I would burst because there finally was a book that gave language to that. (Living in a country that doesn’t recognize marital rape as a criminal offense and takes pains to victim-slam before arresting rapists, such rage is an everyday story.)

So I would like to thank Courtney Summers for writing this book, for putting it out there, for making people think about the very things they quickly sweep under the carpet after a furtive glance around, for the rage.

I wish every teenage girl could be given this book. Every one of them. Before they are silenced.