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BORN CONFUSED by Tanuja Desai Hidier Kirkus Star

BORN CONFUSED

By Tanuja Desai Hidier

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-439-35762-4
Publisher: Scholastic

An Indian-American teen experiences a dizzying summer chasing boys, her best friend, and her identity. Dimple Lala is accustomed to being one of only two Indians in her suburban New Jersey high school, but custom does not lead to comfort, and she feels acutely that she has no real place either in the Indian community of her parents or the American world of her peers. When her best friend Gwyn, blonde, beautiful, and endlessly charismatic, fixes her up with a college boy for her 17th birthday and she becomes monumentally, stinking drunk, her parents decide to take drastic action in the form of an arranged introduction to a “suitable boy.” Dimple does her best to fend off their good intentions, but, too late, she finds herself falling in love, almost against her will, with said suitable boy, who actually spins a mean disc as a nightclub DJ. Dimple emerges as a smart, funny, and original voice whose familial, friendship, and identity struggles are both universal and beautifully specific. Newcomer Desai Hidier crafts a frequently hilarious narrative whose familiar teen-quest-for-identity plot is peopled with highly distinctive and likable characters and is overlaid with a fearless and glorious sense of linguistic possibilities that (along with some idiosyncratic punctuation) seems positively Joyceian. The wordplay is fairly simple at first, but as the plot progresses and Dimple’s feelings and understandings become more complex, the language becomes increasingly metaphorical and abstract. On a solo nighttime photographic tour through New York, Dimple comes close to a cultural epiphany, and the descriptive language takes off. At one point she describes exiting the New York subway: “From a swift tunnel of cut blackness and counterfeit light through a yellowy pool of candle wax turnstiled, metal still muggy to the touch from that rush of hungering hands and up the stairs and out the narrow door into that greater darkness but this one enormously ongoing and violently adorned.” If the plot is a tad predictable, if the love interest is just about too good to be true—who cares? The exuberant, almost psychedelic linguistic riffs will catch readers up in a breathtaking experience that is beyond virtually anything being published for teens today. (Fiction. YA)