I wish I had this book when I was in middle school. Granted, it wasn’t that long ago, but even so. I love how this book’s main characters are Indian girls like me, and not only that, but the story is centered around the Hindu religious stories and epics that I grew up with.
Aru Shah is a twelve year old girl who finds out that she is a descendent of one of the Pandava brothers and that she has to save the world after nearly destroying it. Along the way she meets her “soul sister” Mini, and pigeon guardian Boo.
This book was so much fun, and really showed how even though these girls may be young and inexperienced, (and wear spider-man pajamas!) they still are able to do amazing things even if they make some mistakes along the way.
I loved the fact that Aru was characterized as a liar. Not because I think it is is a good thing, but because it makes her a character who seems more real than your average Mary Sue. Also, Aru doesn’t lie because she thinks it is right, but because she wants to fit in. While this doesn’t mean it is justified, it does allow her to learn from her mistakes when she realizes the consequences of what she has done.
I almost liked Mini more than I liked Aru. I loved the fact that she was both Filipina and Indian, but still knew more about Sanskrit than me or Aru, who actually lived in the Museum of Indian Art and Culture, just because she learned it for fun. I thought her character was really well developed, with her belief that anything and everything could make you sick being a little ironic right now.
I also really liked how the characters were not as serious as they were initially portrayed as being, especially the gods of the seasons and the sentient palace. The fact that these ancient, powerful entities were just as insecure as regular people makes the reader realize that not everything can be solved by age and influence, as well as adding more humor to the story. On a similar vein is the idea that good people (or gods) can do bad things, and that bad people (or demons) can do good things, which appears many times.
The references to the outside world, such as the Night Bazaar in a Costco, or the demon hairdresser brought a smile to my face too, because this story didn’t insist on staying in one world or the other like so many other fantasy books do.
However, the truth is that was I loved the most about this book was what I said very easy on. How much I could see myself in these characters and this world.
Both of these worlds needed this book. Now all that is left is for people to read it.