Wednesday, May 26, 2021


Bajpai, Nandini. Sister of the Bollywood Bride
June 1st 2021 by Poppy 
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Mini's mother died years ago of cancer, but her family has made it through. Older sister Vinnie is doing her residency and will be a doctor soon, and has just gotten engaged to Manish. He's Tamil, which concerns their father, and also in medical school. Vinnie isn't all that excited about the wedding, since she's so busy, and their father is working on starting a new company. Mini feels oddly compelled to plan things, especially once she finds the wedding gold jewelry that her mother set aside in a safety deposit box, and takes it upon herself to do this. Her grandparents and mother's sister (who is a famous designer) are all in India, but she does get a little help from other aunties in her East Coast community. Never mind that she needs to be working on studying for the SAT and writing college applications, soon she is looking for flowers, catering, venues, and music that fit within her father's $35,000 budget. She appeals to her aunt for a dress, and her aunt sends her one for Vinnie that is exquisite, but the dress for Mini herself is the wrong size. Since she wants to major in fashion design and does alterations at a local resale shop, Mini is able to fix the dress herself, and even makes a new one from the leftover fabric. Mini has been slightly angry with her aunt ever since her mother's death, especially since she didn't come for the funeral, nor did she bring Mini to India as promised. On top of all of the planning, Mini meets the very cute Vir, who offers to DJ, fixes her easel, and generally offers a nice distraction. Her sister is grateful, and when Mini and Vir make the gossip columns, her aunt decides to come to the wedding. Things definitely don't go smoothly, and with a major storm quickly approaching, Mini has a lot of work to do to keep the wedding from being a disaster. Will she, her family, and her relationship with Vir weather the storm?
Strengths: There are lots and lots of good details about all of the work involved in planning an elaborate wedding. Readers who enjoyed Richardson's The Meet-Cute Project will enjoy this one. The suburban Boston setting was interesting, and the relationship with Vir was very sweet. I loved how helpful he was. The dash of celebrity will go over well with readers, and all of the fashions were great. The problems with the aunt were well resolved. 
Weaknesses: I found it hard to believe that Mini would have ended up in charge of the wedding. That's a lot of responsibility. If weddings were that important to her family, wouldn't the grandmother have come over from India earlier? The description of the storm changing the plans went on a bit too long for my taste, but certainly added more suspense to the plot.
What I really think: This is a great YA romance that is perfectly at home in a middle school library. I have one girl who is very interested in weddings, so I will definitely purchase. I was hoping for a couple of call outs to Cleary's 1963 Sister of the Bride, but that was too much to hope for!

$35,000 is a budget wedding? If my children get married, there is no way I am investing that kind of money in something so silly. Money for a house, sure. For flowers and catering and weird dresses? No way!

Kelkar, Supriya. That Thing About Bollywood
May 18th 2021 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Sonali misses her grandfather, who ran a video rental store that specialized in Bollywood films, so she enjoys the family movie night that her parents and younger brother Ronak have. These are harder, however, since her parents' fighting has escalated. They constantly bicker, and have ever since Sonali was young. When they decide to separate and "nest" with the kids, taking an apartment and switching weeks at the house, Sonali is somewhat relieved. She doesn't want anyone to know what is going on with her family, which makes it hard to talk to her best friend, Zara, especially since Zara has become friends with Air. Air's parents are film stars, and Zara's goal is to get into movies. Sonali tells her family that she's doing okay, but when she is on a school trip, she suddenly bursts into a Bollywood style song and dance number, with her classmates acting as back up dancers. When Zara tells her that everyone hears a soundtrack and occasionally needs to "solo", Sonali knows something is wrong. Is this magical new world where her whole life has a musical accompaniment caused by her parents' separation? Time and again, Sonali experiences this, sometimes getting in to trouble. (It's okay to break into dance on your way to work or talking to the neighbors; it's not okay to do it in the middle of class.) Zara presses her friend to talk to her, but Sonali wants to keep everything to herself, alienating Zara. Sonali's father wants to keep the separation a secret, the way that an aunt's cancer was kept from the family. It's tough not seeing both of her parents every day, and her mother is concerned that she won't be able to do everything herself, especially since she works long hours as a doctor. As Bollywood causes more and more problems in her life, will Sonali be able to figure out why she is thrust in to this fantasy world, and find a way to make it stop?
Strengths: Statistically, there should be more books about parents who divorce than parents who die. This book does a good job at showing the tension that bickering parents can cause a family. The details of how a family deals with separation and divorce are rarely depicted in literature. This has an added layer of interest with the magical realism of Sonali's new Bollywood reality. I enjoyed the bits of backstory we got about her grandfather, and the interactions with her extended family. The friend drama is always popular. I love the cover!
Weaknesses: This was VERY message heavy. Sonali is told again and again that she shouldn't keep things bottled up. 
What I really think: An interesting twist with Bollywood for readers who liked Dhami's Bindi Babes
Bajaj's Abby Spencer Goes to BollywoodKrishnaswami's The Grand Plan to Fix Everything, and fans of magical realism fraught with problems, like Corey Ann Haydu's work. Love this author's Strong as Fire, Fierce as Flame, American as Paneer Pie, and Ahimsa. It would be nice to have a middle grade novel with Indian or Indian America characters that didn't involve as much trauma. 

Personally, I would side with Sonali's father. There's a passage where Sonali says that her father never explained why he didn't tell anyone things, and here's why: the less people know about your life, the less power they have over you. Sonali is told over and over that she doesn't have to struggle through things alone, but should ask for help. The help that's forthcoming is going to be be far less than the damage inflicted by people knowing things about you that they can use to hurt you. I'm surprised her father didn't have her in therapy (the responsible parent thing to do in cases of death, divorce, or other trauma) so that she could discuss her issues there but not with other people. 

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