Thursday, September 9, 2021

Red, White and Whole: Finding your path, caught in the middle (ages 10-14)

How do our children navigate feeling caught between two cultures, two groups of friends, two identities? In the new novel-in-verse Red, White and Whole, thirteen-year old Reha struggles to figure out her own path, acutely aware that she must juggle between her home life, filled with Indian family, friends and traditions, and her school life. When Reha's mother is diagnosed with advanced leukemia, Reha must figure out how to draw strength from both sides of her life and chart her own way forward.

Red, White and Whole
by Rajani LaRocca
Quill Tree / HarperCollins, 2021
Amazon / your local library / Overdrive
ages 10-14

Reha lives "two lives. One that is Indian, one that is not." At school, she studies hard, spends time with her best friend Rachel, and tries to blend in even though she feels like she's swimming "in a river of white skin." Weekends are filled with samosas and sabjis, family and her best friend Sunny. As she begins her story, she realizes that both places are filled with friends, laughter and music, "but only in one place do I have my parents." Even though she tries to be a dutiful daughter, Reha chafes at the differences between what her parents allow her to do and those of her friends.

But when her Amma becomes sick, diagnosed with leukemia, Reha doesn't know how to keep going, how to make sense of it all. Her mother's sister tries to be supportive, but sheis far away in India. Reha stays with family friends, but they live far away from her school. How can she and her father keep going with everyday life when Amma is barely hanging on?

I appreciate the way author Rajani LaRocca evocatively captures these struggles, conveying Reha's emotional journey and creating a real connection between the reader and her story. She infuses the story with hope and humor, and yet she also gives readers space to reflect on important issues. As Reha copes with her mother's illness, she ultimately grows and claims her own place in the world. I think this will appeal to a wide range of readers who are drawn to personal stories.

The review copies came from my public library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support. 

©2021 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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