A very modern cross-cultural story narrated by way of an old-fashioned pen-pal correspondence.
Meena, a new immigrant from India, lives in an illegal sublet in downtown Manhattan. River, who is of Irish extraction with a little Cherokee thrown in, resides in rural Kentucky. But their core experiences—living in the lower economic realm of the 99 percent, taking inspiration from their wise, nature-loving grandmothers, having fathers who work away from home and mothers who long for their husbands—are the same. During the course of the story, River becomes an environmental activist like his grandmother, trying to end a coal-mining technique that is polluting his community. Meena joins her school’s drama club, becomes more Americanized and mourns the death of the beloved grandmother she left behind in India. The protagonists, who have clear individual voices, are an adult’s dream—polite, literate, studious and hard working—but kids should like them as well and identify with their struggles. In time, they become each other’s best friend and sounding board, supplying understanding and honest feedback. Because it’s a slice of life, a textured, life-ways comparison, there’s not a lot of narrative drive, and some arid patches may cause readers' attention to flag.
Nonetheless, a finely detailed depiction of two separate worlds that demonstrates a deep well of shared humanity. (Fiction. 9-13)