Category Archives: Young Adults

The House that Spoke by Zuni Chopra

Title: The House that Spoke
Author: Zuni Chopra
Publisher: Penguin Books India
ISBN: 9780143427841
Genre: Children’s Books
Pages: 256
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3.5 Stars

For the longest time, “The House that spoke” lay on my bookshelf and somehow there was no inclination to pick it up. One of the barriers was that it is written by a teenager and somehow that thought kept becoming an impediment till it did not. Till I picked up the book and finished it over a weekend and enjoyed it a lot at that.

Having said that, “The House that Spoke” also tries to pack in a lot in one book which at times does feel tedious but eventually grows on you. The book is about fourteen-year-old Zoon Razdan who is instantly shown to be witty, intelligent and above-all perceptive. She lives in Kashmir with her mother in a house – which of course is a part of the title. The objects in the house converse with her. She isn’t new to magic. There are forces beyond her control that threaten to take over her life, the house and her beloved Kashmir.

The book has a lot of metaphors given Kashmir’s situation as of today and that is laudable. Zuni is very empathetic in her writing and that shows. I think that perhaps when you are younger you aren’t influenced by all the writing around you. Of course you read a lot but then again, it isn’t what drives your writing. Your experiences do and after reading this book, I think Zuni’s writing comes from a more personal space (as it should). The characters could have been culled out in a more interesting manner but I guess that can be ignored given it is her first book and she is only sixteen (I think). The writing though is powerful and I loved how the narrative of historic fiction was blended in seamlessly. “The House that Spoke” will charm you, move you, and also make you think about what we’ve done to heaven on earth.

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

ghosts-by-raina-telgemeier Title: Ghosts
Author: Raina Telgemeier
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 978-0545540629
Genre: Graphic novel
Pages: 256
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

Another graphic read of the month. A tear-jerker of sorts, well not really, but it did choke me up for sure. Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novels hit home. They are not just graphic novels, but the ones with a lot of heart and soul. Whether it is “Sisters” or even “Drama” for that matter, and the same goes for her latest release “Ghosts”. It is the kind of book that will make you laugh, perhaps even make you identify the sibling behavior you shared with your brother or sister and most of all, it will make you want move to a ghost town for sure. At least, it did that to me.

Catrina and her family are moving to the coast of Northern California because her sister Maya is sick. Maya has cystic fibrosis and the air that comes in from the sea will do her good. Cat hates leaving her friends and the town she was used to, but Bahia de la Luna will be good for her sister and Cat loves her sister way too much to make this change. The new home and new town come with one caveat though: There are ghosts in the new place and Cat wants nothing to do with them but Maya loves the idea of interacting with them and Cat would have to look at doing one more thing for her sister.

The book is simple. It has a simple plot and it doesn’t reek of the usual graphic novel smartness which some people have come to expect. There is cheer, sadness, courage, fear and love in this book for children and teens like no other graphic novel I’ve read in the last couple of months. It is a heartwarming book and that’s that to it. I would urge you to read it, smile and give it to someone else who could use a smile or two.

George by Alex Gino

George by Alex Gino Title: George
Author: Alex Gino
Publisher: Scholastic Press
ISBN: 978-0545812542
Genre: Teens, Young Adult
Pages: 208
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

When the publisher gave me a copy of “George” by Alex Gino to read, I knew it very then that I would love it to bits and I did. “George” is a story that could be taking place around us and we would not even know of it. I think a lot has been written about the L and G of the LGBT community, but not enough on the transgender and transsexual bit (there is also a difference between the two by the way), so “George” came as a refreshing surprise when I picked it up.

George is a boy and she knows she is a girl. She can feel it deep down and all she wants is to be a girl and do the things that girls do. She hates it when people refer to her as a boy and try and expect her to do all the things that boys do. All she wants is to be Charlotte in the school play Charlotte’s web and she cannot because people see her as a boy. Even her teach won’t understand her dilemma. Neither will her brother Scott and Mom. But she has her best friend Kelly who believes in her and will do anything so she can play Charlotte.

In the midst of bullies, her situation and the need to be who she is, “George” finally comes into her own at the end of the book. How? Well that is for you to read and find out.

I absolutely loved this book. I have never read anything like this – about a transgender teen and I think it is so needed in our times more than ever. People need to be made aware and know what is going on before they judge severely or jump to any conclusions.

The tone of the book is emotional and sometimes funny but mostly it will leave you with a warm tingling feeling in your heart which is the idea anyway. Initially you might have a problem shifting between genders in your head, but when it is clear, you will breeze through that. The writing is quick and simple and easily readable and relatable at that – when it comes to coming of age.

I also would strongly urge all parents to read this book, because it would probably help them know their child better and respect differences in them, if any. I also think that it is time someone in India wrote about this – from a child, a teenager and an adult’s perspective. It is so needed given how ignorant we are when it comes to this sphere of the gender. It is more so about gender politics than actually being empathetic to their needs.

There were times when I felt the book was being rushed but I guess that’s how the author combo (yeah Alex and Gino are two people) wanted it that way. All said and done, I immensely enjoyed the journey of a ten-year old about being who he always knew he was – a girl. I was hooting for “George” till the very end and hoping that this is just the beginning for her.

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Second Star to the Right by Deborah Hautzig

Second Star to the Right by Deborah Hautzig Title: Second Star to the Right
Author: Deborah Hautzig
Publisher: Puffin Books
ISBN: 9780141305806
Genre: Young Adult
Pages: 176
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

I am back to my reading project of ‘The Novel Cure’ and this time since I finished D, I began with E – the first ailment being “Eating Disorders” and the first cure was “Second Star to the Right” by Deborah Hautzig. I didn’t realize the book was a young adult novel till I started reading it and since I love Young Adult Novels, I was completely bowled over.

Leslie Heller is a bright, attractive and a regular teenager who lives a life of privilege in New York City. Her life takes a drastic turn when she begins to diet in her quest for happiness and that becomes an obsession with her, to the point of death by starvation. She and her family struggle with it and at the same time Leslie also has to battle with her past and her Jewish roots.

The book deals with the emotional and mental trauma that an anorexia nervosa patient goes through. It is autobiographical and therefore the writing becomes so strong and emotional. Leslie as seen through Deborah (because she is based on her) is raw, intense and confused. The writing is heart-breaking as you see Leslie and her family coping with anorexia and coming to terms with what can be done to cure it.

“Second Star to the Right” puts a lot of things in perspective for teenagers, mainly about the issues of fitting-in and acceptance and what it takes in our world to be what you want to be. I think I will for one gift this book to every teenager I know to make him or her understand that life is not always about being accepted. It is about being who you want to be.

Next Up on the Novel Cure Reading Project:

Ailment: Egg on Your Tie
Cure: Restoration by Rose Tremain

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Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Will Grayson, Will Grayson Title: Will Grayson, Will Grayson
Authors: John Green and David Levithan
Publisher: Penguin UK
ISBN: 9780141346113
Genre: Teen, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4/5

I have always believed in the cause of LGBT literature. More so in my country and that is targeted at teens who are confused and need some more perspective and clarity on sexual orientation. It is a pity that that is not the case in India. There are so many teenagers who still struggle with being gay and do not know what to do about it. I also wish that more writers write about what they face with sensitivity and humour as it is clearly done in “Will Grayson, Will Grayson”.

“Will Grayson, Will Grayson” is about two Wills and what happens when their lives converge. They are both in high school and each is facing his own demon. The book is special also because of Tiny Cooper – the gay teen who only wants to spread happiness and kindness and direct the most successful high-school musical of them all.

What works the most for the book is the joint writing by John Green and David Levithan. Both writers have distinct styles and this is what reflects on the pages as well. The writing is overwhelming, funny, and so real in so many parts and scenes. I am so glad that these two writers teamed up for this book. There are some brilliant secondary characters and the writers have made use of technology most aptly in the entire course of the book.

What I loved the most about the book is the honesty with which it is written. The lives of teenagers with all its confusion and chaos are accurately captured without it being over the top. The book has some beautiful moments when it seems that life is so simple and perhaps one can apply the same to one’s life; however that remains to be seen for a later date. “Will Grayson, Will Grayson” is all about being you and carrying on regardless of how life works out in the end.

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