The youngest daughter of Indian immigrants, 15-year-old Tina Malhotra tries her best to navigate the social minefield that is her progressive Southern California school. Taking solace in her longtime friendship with Alex Leach, a Mormon blonde she has known since fourth grade, Tina is devastated when the sexually advanced Alex decides to dump her to hang out with another, more fashionable girl. Thus begins the P.A.E. (Post Alex Epoch). Taking seriously her ex–best friend’s assertion that she lacked “experience,” Tina decides to channel her rejection into getting some. Egged on by her ponytailed English teacher Mr. “Moose” Moosewood, she throws herself into a semester English project on existentialism and tries to make friends with other kids. She attends Indian functions with her well-meaning (if clueless) family and crushes on popular skateboarder Neil Strumminger. She lands the lead in a drama department production of Rashomon and is horrified to realize that her first kiss might actually be with her co-star, the revolting Ted Fresh. She joins the “brown people” club. And she learns even more about life—and horse tranquilizers—after attending a decadent house party. All the while she wonders who she really is and how she fits into the world. Sartre’s philosophy, it turns out, is a surprisingly useful influence on bright, self-absorbed teenage girls. With her deadpan wit and gift for observation, Kashyap’s Tina brings to mind any number of disaffected teens, but she is also, at heart, a very good girl. One cannot help but wonder if her story would resonate more if she had a sharper edge.
A charming, hip, illustrated coming-of-age tale.