Red, White, and Whole by Rajani Larocca

Published by Quill Tree Books

Amazon.com: Red, White, and Whole: 9780063047426: LaRocca, Rajani: Books

Summary:  Reha feels pulled in two directions, spending her weekdays with her mostly white friends at school and her weekends with her family’s Indian community.  Like many 13-year-olds, she feels like her parents–particularly her mother–don’t understand what she’s going through.  Then her mom is diagnosed with leukemia, and Reha suddenly feels like she would give just about anything to go back to life the way it was before.  As she and her father try to navigate hospital visits and caring for Amma while still dealing with work and school, Reha sometimes feels pushed to the breaking point.  Friends, family, the Indian community, and the boy she’s had a crush on help get her through.  When the unthinkable happens, Reha isn’t sure she will make it, but Amma has found a way to communicate and to let her daughter know that she has understood what she’s going through, and will somehow always be a part of her life.  224 pages; grades 5-8.

Pros:  Keep the Kleenexes handy as you make your way through this amazing novel in verse.  It’s so much more than just a sad story, though: it’s a story of the immigrant experience of feeling caught between two worlds as well as a realistic middle school story with lots of fun 1983 details (especially the music!).  I’m a little skeptical of Goodreads’ mock Newbery list, but this book is currently at #2.

Cons:  This book came out in February, and I pretty much decided not to read it because it sounded like too much of a downer.  I’m so glad it got enough Newbery buzz to make me change my mind, as I found it ultimately a hopeful and uplifting book.

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