Thursday, April 30, 2015

How to Stop your Grownup from making Bad Decisions

How to Stop your Grownup from making Bad Decisions
Written by Judy Balan
Publisher: Harper Collins India
Ages: 10+

There’s no such thing as a normal family, eleven year old Nina declares early in this book, pegged as the first in the Nina the Philosopher series. Certainly, hers abounds in crazy – a ditsy mom, juggling single parenthood  with a job as a writer; a surly older sister who just might be a voodoo priestess; Nina herself, struggling to keep the peace as the only (over)thinking member of the household.  Adding to the mayhem are Dhiraj aka Diddy Blood, mom’s utterly unsuitable rapper boyfriend and  Polka Dot, Diddy’s horrid little son  (names are clearly NOT  Diddy’s forte) -  even Moustache Maami, a well-meaning, bewhiskered neighbour. Thankfully, Nina has some support in her corner – her mother’s friend Ashwin and BLG,  Bright Light God himself, who just might be tipping the fates in Nina’s favour every now and then. But just when you think things are looking up for our sassy little narrator, Mom drops the M-bomb, announcing her plans to marry Diddy! What is a girl to do, especially a budding philosopher like our Nina?

Bristling with pithy observations about life, sisterhood, evil teachers and the ordeals of bringing up a stubborn and clueless parent, How to.. is a fun, breezy read you can finish in a single sitting, thanks to its articulate and irreverent narrator. Told in the form of Nina’s  blogposts over a period of two months, the book  is a refreshingly different look at the modern family, with a plot  that manages to include pretty much every topic long held taboo in Indian children’s writing – PMS! Divorce! Live-in relationships!! Teenage pregnancy!!!  Even Nina’s mom is the antithesis of the traditional maternal figure – wildly impulsive, childishly stubborn, useless in the kitchen and with extremely questionable taste in men. Some aspects of the book are likely to crease the odd parental brow -  at one point, Nina urges her mother into a ‘trial marriage’ with Diddy ; elsewhere, her fourteen year old sister hares off to get tattooed, then deliberately leaves the wrapping of a pregnancy testing kit in the trash.  

I enjoyed Nina's candour and worldly wise commentary, which often make her sound older than her years. “I really think I should be the mom in this family”, she says, after yet another family flareup. You have to agree. “Are children even supposed to worry about their parents?” Of course, all it takes is an accident for her to go right back to sounding eleven years old as she pours out her fears to BLG on her blog. I also enjoyed Priyanka Shyam's whacky  illustrations , especially the one of the teachers-as-angry-elephants.

By the end, of course, things are rosy again. There is the hint of romance in the air, and the possibility of unearthing the mystery of Nina's absent father. But this is, after all, the first in a series .Going by the promise of Book 1, Nina's quest for Normal is still many, many hilarious blogposts away.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher. The views expressed here, however, are my own.

1 comment:

Ms. Yingling said...

It would be wonderful if books like these were available in the US! This would be great to hand to my students. Realistic fiction about students like themselves... who live in a different country. I was disappointed when I visited the Harper Collins India Children's book site and saw many US titles, though. Thanks for putting this on my radar.

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