Bajaj, Varsha. Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood
March 1st 2014, Albert Whitman & Company
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Abby is enjoying life with her single mother and her friends when she has a very bad allergic reaction to coconut. Her mother and grandparents don't have this, but the father she has never met does. Turns out that since her father Naveen last saw her mother, her father has become one of the most popular film stars in India. He's open to meeting Abby, however, especially since his elderly mother is in ill health, so he arranges for Abby to come and stay with him in India. It's a whole new world, from faithful family retainers, to dad's glamorous girlfriend, to the whole Bollywood scene. It doesn't hurt to have cute Indian American boy Shaan nearby, either. The press doesn't know that Naveen has a daughter, and he must consider how to let them know on the eve of his big movie premier without sabotaging the release of his film. Things never go smoothly, but Abby is ultimately glad that she got to know not only her father, but a lot about a facet of her heritage that she didn't know.
Strengths: While this looks like a fun and fluffy "chick lit" novel, it really had deeper moments of self discovery that were spot on for middle school students. Abby has a wonderfully supportive family in both countries, and her mishaps and self doubts will speak to middle grade readers.
Weaknesses: The start of this didn't go down as well for me as the rest of this book. Something about the allergies, the father not knowing the mother was pregnant... certainly by 1999 people were still in touch on line more than this would indicate, but that's a small quibble, since the book did explain it fairly convincingly.