Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Boomi's Boombox

Sekaran, Shanthi. Boomi's Boombox
May 23, 2023 by Katherine Tegen Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Boomi Gopalan lives in San Francisco with her mother and grandmother, Paati. 2020 was a tough year, and Boomi not only has to deal with online school like everyone else, but with the death of her physician father. Her mother doesn't talk about him, and her Paati doesn't communicate at all. Since she and her best friend aren't talking much, either, Boomi has to deal with her grief alone. Her mother is very invested in Boomi's ballet lessons and tryouts for her studio, and is alarmed that Boomi has gained weight and is deemed too heavy to be a real ballerina. She tries to restrict Boomi's diet and feed her a lot of dry chicken and leafy salads. When Boomi finds an old boom box that belonged to her father with a note inside that says "change your life", she finds that she is magically whisked away to Thumpton-on-Soar in 1986, where she meets a younger version of her father, Jeevan. His English community is largely Asian, but there are some people who don't appreciate the vibrant community that includes a Disco Baba ice cream truck. Jeevan's sister, Archie, fights the local Peace and Quiet Commission, and a younger version of Paati teaches Bharatanatyam dance lessons, which seem to fit Boomi's style better than ballet. Because of the vagaries of the boom box, she finds herself going back and forth in time, and trying to mend fences with Bebe, deal with her mother and ballet, and also help her father with the problems with his community and his sister. When she inadvertantly causes an accident in the past, will it have ramifications for her future?
Strengths: One of my daughter's favorite books in middle school was Page's Rewind, and really, isn't the best middle grade time travel novel one where the protagonist travels back and meets parents? This was especially bittersweet since Boomi had recently lost her father. The boombox was the perfect mechanism for time travel; anything with music definitely has the possibility of transporting back to the past! Moderrn readers will enjoy the discussion of Boomi's weight, and her insistence in remaining true to who she is. For my part, I loved the description of Thumpton-on-Soar, which seemed very much like London's Camden neighborhood. There's always a danger of changing the present by traveling to the past, and I liked that while a little bit changed, it was mainly for the better, and didn't drastically alter Boomi's reality. 
Weaknesses: This had a strong British feel to it, and my readers don't seem to enjoy that as much as they have in the past. (Back when Rennison's Georgia Nichols books were popular!)
What I really think: There have been some good new time travel books lately, like Salerni's The Carrefour Curse or Schaefer's A Long Way From Home. This felt a bit like those, but mixed with a dash of Dhami's Bindi Babes. , It's closest to Welford's Time Traveling with a Hamster, but with Bharatanatyam or Chanani's Jukebox, although this is NOT a graphic novel! (Something about the cover made me think it would be.)

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