Happy MMGM, guys!
It's good to be back! This week, we're reviewing Chloe in India by Kate Darnton.
This is a enjoyable, worthwhile tale, of a young girl who struggles with the challenges of living abroad. It's only after she finds a kindred spirit and an unlikely friend, that she begins to realize the specific challenges and triumphs that come with her new home.
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published January 12th 2016 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Format read: ARC via publisher
Author Kate Darnton manages to beautifully realize the challenges of being a young foreigner abroad, and the socioeconomic experiences unique to Chloe's new home. All in all, this is a tale that will add up to a memorable and valuable experience for readers of all ages.
Though they’re divided by class, language, appearance—you name it—Chloe and Lakshmi have a lot in common. Both girls are new to Class Five at Premium Academy in New Delhi, India, and neither seems to fit in. But they soon discover how extraordinary an ordinary friendship can be and how celebrating our individuality can change the world.
Author Kate Darnton introduces us to Chloe, who is struggling after her family has moved to New Delhi. However, an initially reluctant friendship with fellow new student Lakshmi, begins to challenge Chloe to recognize that the world around her is bigger than just her, and how one friendship can help change many lives for the better.
There are many things to love about Chloe in India, beginning with Darnton's New Delhi setting. It's clear that Darnton has a significant understanding and appreciation for India, and she deftly uses Chloe's newfound environment to challenge both Chloe's expectations of herself and the world around her.
Readers will undoubtedly be sympathetic to Chloe's struggles in this foreign environment, and Darnton deftly shows the challenges of standing out in a culture with different societal rules. Chloe's concern that the novelty of her newness will eventually wear off with the popular girls, or her struggles with recognizing the fact that Lakshmi is looked down upon for being of a different class, will likely feel familiar to young readers, while also giving them much to consider regarding social classes and entrenched societal discrimination.
As Chloe grows in her friendship with Lakshmi, Darnton does a nice job of stressing the underlying idea that friendship is often universal, regardless of background and culture. However, this is also true when it comes to a young teen's struggles with popularity, and readers will likely appreciate the genuine honesty of Chloe's missteps as she tries to fit in with the popular crowd at the expense of this burgeoning friendship, and her gradual self-discovery toward what is actually important to her.
It's worth noting that some may wonder if Chloe and her family are ultimately viewed as being the saviors to Lakshmi - a point Kirkus makes in their review - especially as Darnton begins delving into her socioeconomic background. However, I would argue that if anything, it's Lakshmi who saves Chloe.
Darnton is careful to show how Lakshimi's strength and ability to stand proud in the face of institutionalized discrimination, ultimately inspires Chlore and her family to act, but also learn more about themselves in the process. Lakshmi is the one who also challenges Chloe to look beyond the status quo, and realize that she doesn't need to fit into the stringent limitations offered by some of her classmates, and the genuine joy that comes with being true to herself.
While this is not a necessarily new theme in children's literature, I still think it's an important one that should be reiterated at every juncture. Darnton's level-headed approach makes it memorable.
Kate Darnton has written a intelligently layered book, which beautifully showcases the many challenges that come with growing up. Chloe's struggles with fitting in, and trying to figure out just how she fits into her family and her school - especially as they navigate extremely different lives in India - are themes that all young readers will likely relate to, regardless of where they are in the world.
But at the same time, Darnton manages to dually show that even with the realities of life in India, there is still a universality in Chloe and Lakshmi's friendship, and relationship with one another. Darnton really emphasizes that there is a right way to be a friend, and a good way to stand up for someone important to you, which exceeds all socioeconomic and cultural boundaries, and a nice way to conclude this book.
Highly recommend for readers who are looking for a beautifully realized and diverse tale, and also for readers who are looking for a nice tale about friendship.