Thursday, September 11, 2008

Review: Indie Girl

Indie Girl by Kavita Daswani
3 stars

Reasons for reading: Orbis Terarrum Challenge; enjoyed one of her adult books

Book description: "Fifteen-year-old Indie Konkipuddi has always dreamed of becoming a fashion reporter. She'd do anything to land an internship with glamorous Celebrity Style magazine -- even babysit publisher Aaralyn Taylor's two-year-old son. Indie's neurosurgeon dad can't understand why Indie would want to spend her weekends picking Play-Doh off of someone else's Persian carpets, and pretty soon she starts asking herself the same thing. hen Indie finds out that (1) Celebrity Style is in trouble, and (2) Hollywood's hottest star is having her wedding dress made in a village in India. Indie's sure she's scored the juiciest gossip in town -- the kind of story that will put the magazine back on the map and finally land her the internship! But when things don't pan out exactly as planned, Indie wonders -- will Aaralyn ever see her as anything more than just the hired help?"

First line: "Today, I would be meeting the woman whom I was convinced would change my life."

My thoughts: I really enjoyed Daswani's For Matrimonial Purposes a few years ago, so I was really interested when I saw she'd written a YA novel.

My library is in a city with a large South Asian population, so I was really glad to be able to get a chick lit novel for the teen girls in that population. One of the things about both adult and teen chick lit is that it's usually pretty darn white. As far as I can tell, white in the Gossip Girl books and even on the TV show, they only have one Asian and one black girl who may as well have TOKEN stamped on their Prada bags. This book addresses issues like that - Indie's dad points out that no matter how successful some Indian celebrities might become at home, they never really break into Hollywood. Aralyn says something I found shockingly ignortant to Indie - "I hear that people from your part of the world are good with domestic duties." Elements like that elevated this book above typical fashion-obsessed teen lit (interning for fashion houses or magazines seems to be the hot trend in YA fiction these days, overtaking the previously popular nannying).

But I liked that Daswani also addressed that, while North Americans may have either no thought about people from other cultures or insulting thoughts like Aralyn's, people from another culture often isolate themselves. After contemplating that, among other things, her family spends American holidays with other Indians eating tandoori chicken, Indie realizes "We were Americans but in name only." It's a tough issue - the desire and need to maintain traditions balanced against the fact that the family has moved to a different country with a different culture.

There's a bit of everything else in the book - a bit of romance, a bit of struggle against parents, a life lesson in being yourself and not letting someone disrespect you. And lots of fashion, as well. I think teen girls from any background would enjoy reading about Indie's unique style and her attempt to follow her dream.

Since this is for Orbis Terrarum, I'll mention how funny it seems that Daswani counts as a Hong Kong author because that's where she was born, but her books are completely, utterly steeped in Indian culture. She has a real gift for making the reader see the beautiful clothing, taste the food, and really be immersed in a different world.

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