Everything has been so different this year for Karmajeet Khullar.
She is worried about starting middle school, about her dissolving relationship with her white best friend, Sara, and about Sara’s new friendship with mean girl Lacy, also white. At home, she misses her beloved Dadima, who recently passed away, as she confronts changing family dynamics, with her Sikh father now the stay-at-home parent, her white mother working way too many hours at her new job, and her surly 14-year-old brother rubbing everyone the wrong way. And worst of all, dark-haired Karma has no idea what to do about the 17 hairs she discovers on her upper lip just before the start of sixth grade—and now her classmates are teasing her about her mustache (“ ’Stache Attack!”). Could it be bad karma? Debut author Wientge has sensitive, anxious Karma confronting the universal preteen problems of self-esteem, bullying, and changing friendships, with everyday details of her interracial family’s Sikh faith and culture seamlessly woven in. Although the story meanders slightly, it articulates well the protagonist’s angst, insecurities, strength, and perseverance, along with the pressures she faces.
Readers will enjoy seeing how Karma navigates the complexities of adolescence, middle school, and the 17 hairs on her upper lip in this realistic and humorous story of new friendships and family support. (Fiction. 10-12)