Sonia Nadhamuni has to start the first year of sixth grade in an unfamiliar public school when her father loses his job, and her family can no longer afford the private school she loved. Faced with the loss of her best friend, larger classes and a school polarized by tight-knit cliques, Sonia has a hard time finding her place and dealing with the questions the other kids have about her half Jewish, half Indian identity. In the midst of many person difficulties – an annoying younger sister, a mother stressed from her additional work responsibilities, and a father struggling with depression and the loss of his job, Sonia has to find her footing and figure out who she is and who she wants to be.
I had heard nothing but good things about Veera Hiranandani’s debut novel The Whole Story of Half A Girl, but what I hadn’t heard was that it was written for the middle grade crowd. Imagine my surprise when I started reading. It was easy to get involved in Sonia’s life, agonizing with her over the dilemmas she faces. Sonia is easy to relate to, yet flawed. She doesn’t always make decisions that she is proud of, but her motivations and needs are easily discerned. The issues that Sonia encounters in her search for identity amidst mean girls, racial politics, and family upheaval are realistic and poignant. Hiranandani does an admirable job of portraying the jumbled mess of emotions Sonia feels during her family’s crisis and her own struggle to fit in a new environment. Anyone who’s ever been bothered by a bully or wondered about their place among their peers will enjoy Sonia and this deftly and thoughtfully written novel. Recommended.
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