Red, White, and Whole

HarperCollins/Quill Tree. Feb. 2021. 224p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780063047426.
Gr 5 Up–Indian American middle schooler Reha navigates growth and loss in this 1980s coming-of-age novel in verse. Thirteen-year-old Reha deals with ordinary concerns; she tries to stay true to her Indian culture while growing up with in the United States, and she grapples with a crush on a classmate. When her mother suddenly gets sick with leukemia, Reha’s ordinary everyday concerns fade away and are replaced with the belief that if she is as virtuous as possible, she will save her mother’s life. As the story goes on, Reha deals with her grief and builds a strong support network of friends and family to help her face her mother’s illness. References to musicians such as Pat Benatar, the Beach Boys, and Cyndi Lauper firmly set this story in the 1980s, but the story otherwise feels modern. Reha’s story is slow to start but quickly ramps up. Readers will be invested in her relationships with her parents and friends and will enjoy the evocative verse and emotional stakes.
VERDICT A recommended purchase, perfect for fans of Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga and Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton.

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