When her father lands a job in the United States, Shalini’s family relocates from Bangalore, India, to Los Angeles.
Her father loves his work, and her little sister, Sangita, dives happily into middle school, making friends and discovering a gift for swimming. But like her mother, Asha, shy Shalini is miserable in high school, where her foreign manners and dress target her for ridicule. She shares her unhappiness with Vikram, her fiancé back home (they’ve been engaged since Shalini was 3 years old); he offers her support and encouragement by phone. Culture shock takes a toll on everyone, especially Asha, who succumbs to clinical depression. Shalini’s upbringing has given her few coping skills beyond passivity until she meets Renuka—South Indian by heritage, but born and raised in the U.S.—who urges her to be proactive and stand up for herself. Taking Renuka’s words to heart, Shalini begins to turn things around. But the joys of being an L.A. teen bring complications. How will her attraction to Toby, a gifted musician in the school orchestra, affect her relationship with Vikram? Daswani, whose fiction includes the teen novel Indie Girl (2007), portrays a contemporary immigrant family and community with empathic insight and humor.
Straddling two very different worlds, Shalini remains authentic and appealing throughout her metamorphosis. (Fiction. 12 & up)