Today, I'm reviewing Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood, a wonderful, witty, diverse debut novel from Varsha Bajaj.
You'll want to read this one, and you'll have a chance to win this book, further down in the post!
Hardcover, 249 pages
Published March 1st 2014 by Albert Whitman & Company (first published January 1st 2014)
Not only does Varsha Bajaj tell a wonderful Cinderella tale of a girl who finds out that her father is in fact a bonafide movie star, Bajaj also combines Abby's coming-of-age journey with a wonderfully layered story of blended families, learning about new cultures, while enjoying the glamour of Bollywood.
Synopsis via publisher:
But after reading the ARC, I've come to conclusion that while Varsha Bajaj's debut is definitely a fun story, it's also so much more than that. It's an engaging tale on how a young and spunky girl ties together her two cultural backgrounds, a blended family and some Bollywood glamour, to help her begin to figure out who she is and who she wants to be.
For most of her life, thirteen-year-old Abby Spencer has been content with living with her mom and her grandparents. However, after a series of accidents helps her figure out that her father is a famous Bollywood star, Abby's on her way to Mumbai to meet him for the first time!
Abby Spencer… is Bajaj's debut novel, but it has the magic, charm and excellent writing (!) of an accomplished author. Bajaj captures Abby's thirteen-year-old voice perfectly, as Abby begins exploring her newfound culture and engaging with her father for the first time.
As Abby begins to learn more about who her father is, and his life in India, Bajaj does a great job of covering a wide range of thoughtful and thought-provoking topics, such as exploring different cultures, recognizing social inequality (!) and learning how to get outside a person's comfort zone for the first time.
Bajaj does an especially great job of also showing how there are points in life, when it's important to accept the situation for what it is. While Abby definitely likes to consider the what-ifs of her life, as she begins to develop stronger ties with her father and his side of the family, she also recognizes that sometimes, things just end up happening a certain way. It's best to love the situation for what it is.
Even though this is a pretty complex lesson for younger readers to digest, the fact that Bajaj is so ready to trust that her readers will understand that life lesson, will undoubtedly make readers love Abby and Bajaj all the more.
Of special note: Educators and parents will also likely appreciate Abby and her family's thoughtful, direct acceptance of her ethnic background. Not only is Abby's heritage a relevant reflection of today's modern society, it's also a positive, inspiring example for a lot of younger readers and teens who may be going through some similar issues.
Also, as someone who is in a relationship with someone of a different ethnicity, I've know I've certainly had my fair share of comments on hypothetical biracial offspring. Books like Abby Spencer… do a fantastic job to remind me that the world is changing, and for the better.
Bajaj has written a novel that is not only timely, well-researched and well-written, but also does a great job in showcasing the diversity that can exist in today's young adult literature as well. I can only hope that Bajaj's novel is the start of a new trend of diverse books, and also the start of more books from a clearly up-and-coming author.
I highly recommend this book for all readers of all ages. This is a book that will keep your heart and your mind singing like a Bollywood movie, long after you've finished reading.
But I love this book so much, and I'm so thankful for Albert Whitman & Company's generosity, I want other people to get the chance to read it! So enter at the Rafflecopter below!
About the author:
Varsha’s upcoming titles include Abby Spencer goes to Bollywood (Whitman, 2014), a funny touching middle grade and Our Baby (Nancy Paulsen Books), a lyrical picture book to be illustrated by Eliza Wheeler.
You can visit Varsha at www.varshabajaj.com.