Thursday, February 16, 2012

Review: The Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera Hirandani

Title: The Whole Story of Half a Girl

Author: Veera Hirandani
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Release date: January 10th 2012
Pages: 224
Genre: MG; contemporary
Source: NetGalley - thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a free eGalley of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Find out more: Amazon | Goodreads

Goodreads description:

After her father loses his job, Sonia Nadhamuni, half Indian and half Jewish American, finds herself yanked out of private school and thrown into the unfamiliar world of public education. For the first time, Sonia's mixed heritage makes her classmates ask questions—questions Sonia doesn't always know how to answer—as she navigates between a group of popular girls who want her to try out for the cheerleading squad and other students who aren't part of the "in" crowd.
At the same time that Sonia is trying to make new friends, she's dealing with what it means to have an out-of-work parent—it's hard for her family to adjust to their changed circumstances. And then, one day, Sonia's father goes missing. Now Sonia wonders if she ever really knew him. As she begins to look for answers, she must decide what really matters and who her true friends are—and whether her two halves, no matter how different, can make her a whole.

First sentence:
I'm in school, sitting with my hair hanging long down my back of my chair, my arm around my best friend, Sam.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

When I requested The Whole Story of Half a Girl on NetGalley, I thought it was YA. After reading a few pages, though, it was obvious that this is MG. Sonia is in the 6th grade, and honestly, that made me want to stop reading The Whole Story of Half a Girl - I thought the MC and the story would be too immature and I wouldn't be able to enjoy the book. But since it's such a quick read, I kept reading. And while the novel isn't perfect, and I'm definitely too old for it, it did end up being an enjoyable read.

Despite my wariness of reading from a sixth-grader's point-of-view, I ended up really liking Sonia. She's easy to relate to, despite our age difference, and I really liked how her innocent, young view of life affected her way of seeing and describing things.

I liked reading about the family dynamics, the little sister and her realistic relationship to Sonia, and the father's issues are handled well. I also liked reading about the differences in Sonia's and Kate's families.

The subtlety in The Whole Story of Half a Girl is great. That's one of the things I really liked about the - admittedly few - MGs I've read; they're more subtle than a lot of YA books. It's a great example of showing instead of telling, and that made me really like the characters - Kate, Sam, and the rest of Sonia's characters are all fully-developed characters.

The way the racial issues are handled, however, is only okay, in my opinion. It's too big a deal how everyone at school asks whether Sonia is black or white - honestly, what's the big deal? Have they never seen someone Indian before? The same goes for religion - everyone thinks it's weird that Sonia is Jewish, too, but I didn't get that either - do kids really care whether their peers are Jewish, Christian, or anything else? The focus on those issues at school is too extreme, in my opinion. How Sonia handles those issues, though, I liked - her problems with her identity are relatable and described well.

The Whole Story of Half a Girl is a great coming-of-age story, and a lot of aspects are really well-written, but still, I couldn't enjoy it too much, simply because I'm too old for this kind of book.   I recommend it for a younger audience, though - I can see this being an amazing book for someone around Sonia's age.


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