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FROM ASH TO ASHES

A complex depiction of a family in turmoil.

A Punjabi girl and her family reconcile their Indian customs and Sikh faith with their new lives in late-20th-century America.

Mira Singh is grieving a loss too shameful to talk about. Growing up in a mostly White suburb in Long Island after her family left Queens, she was teased for her hairy legs and Indian lunches, but she had memories of a happy childhood and her faith in Guru to anchor her. When her sister, Ritu, falls in love with a Muslim boy and is quickly married off to a fellow Sikh to avoid gossip, Mira starts to see flaws in the customs she never questioned before. Her brother Jazz was mercilessly bullied at school, and her brother Jeet felt the heavy weight of living up to his parents’ expectations at all costs. Mira and her siblings each experiment with activities their parents forbid and struggle to understand against a backdrop of worries about community judgment. It’s not until the Singhs suffer a terrible loss that they are forced to consider each other’s perspectives. Chapters move forward and backward in time, slowly revealing the central mystery in a tantalizing way, ultimately flashing forward to 2018. The writing feels heavy-handed at times, but the book encourages readers to wrestle with questions of parental abuse, individual dreams, personal sacrifice, and religious faith as Mira and her siblings navigate a multitude of challenges.

A complex depiction of a family in turmoil. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 23, 2023

ISBN: 9781627204262

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Apprentice House

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2023

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IF ONLY I HAD TOLD HER

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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INDIVISIBLE

An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away.

A Mexican American boy takes on heavy responsibilities when his family is torn apart.

Mateo’s life is turned upside down the day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents show up unsuccessfully seeking his Pa at his New York City bodega. The Garcias live in fear until the day both parents are picked up; his Pa is taken to jail and his Ma to a detention center. The adults around Mateo offer support to him and his 7-year-old sister, Sophie, however, he knows he is now responsible for caring for her and the bodega as well as trying to survive junior year—that is, if he wants to fulfill his dream to enter the drama program at the Tisch School of the Arts and become an actor. Mateo’s relationships with his friends Kimmie and Adam (a potential love interest) also suffer repercussions as he keeps his situation a secret. Kimmie is half Korean (her other half is unspecified) and Adam is Italian American; Mateo feels disconnected from them, less American, and with worries they can’t understand. He talks himself out of choosing a safer course of action, a decision that deepens the story. Mateo’s self-awareness and inner monologue at times make him seem older than 16, and, with significant turmoil in the main plot, some side elements feel underdeveloped. Aleman’s narrative joins the ranks of heart-wrenching stories of migrant families who have been separated.

An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5605-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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