Hello! I read this book as part of the 2012 Debut Authors Challenge.
After her father loses his job, Sonia Nadhamuni, half Indian and half Jewish American, finds herself yanked out of private school and thrown into the unfamiliar world of public education. For the first time, Sonia’s mixed heritage makes her classmates ask questions—questions Sonia doesn’t always know how to answer—as she navigates between a group of popular girls who want her to try out for the cheerleading squad and other students who aren’t part of the “in” crowd.
At the same time that Sonia is trying to make new friends, she’s dealing with what it means to have an out-of-work parent—it’s hard for her family to adjust to their changed circumstances. And then, one day, Sonia’s father goes missing. Now Sonia wonders if she ever really knew him. As she begins to look for answers, she must decide what really matters and who her true friends are—and whether her two halves, no matter how different, can make her a whole.
I have to say that I was captivated with this story from the start; I started it and didn’t want to put it down (although work, and real life actually did force me to!).
The Whole Story of Half a Girl is a coming of age story centered around a girl in middle school at a point in her life when everything (and I mean everything!) gets turned upside down. Sonia’s father looses his job, she has to go to a different school, her mother has to work more, her father is struggling with depression, she is trying to make new friends, and all while kids at school are making fun of her.
Hiranandani writes a story so real that it hurts at times. The more I read, the more my mind was flooded with my own memories from this age. Kids are not just dealing with one problem, but are often blindsided by a multitude all at once, making the transition from child to teenager that much more challenging. I appreciate the way this book illustrates the complexity of family issues, relationship struggles and the difficulty that comes with discovering one’s own (ethnic/religious) identity. There was potential for Sonia’s story to be easily clichéd or stereotyped, but Hiranandani manages to keep the story balanced and realistic while at the same time incredibly touching. And I think that Hiranandani does a wonderful job of writing about such deep issues, while also maintaining the middle grade appropriateness.
As a main character Sonia is both likable and easy to connect with. In the midst of all the changes, Sonia is really trying to make sense of everything the best she can. I especially like how realistically flawed Hiranandani writes Sonia, as exemplified in how she handles her new friendships at her new school. Through much of the book, Sonia puts real friendship on the back-burner, instead turning her attention to the more superficial and in turn hurts some people. Although its a mistake I understand why Sonia would do this; her life is so much upheaval she just focuses on whats easy for a while; going with the flow. Eventually, however she realizes that going with the flow isn’t always the healthiest of practices, especially when it comes to who you spend your time with. Who, when faced with such difficult times, wouldn’t make the easy choice for a little while?
Overall, I was impressed with how moving Sonia’s story was and highly recommend it to any reader preteen and up. The Whole Story of Half a Girl is already on my Too Buy list for my Media Center!
Author: Veera Hiranandani
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Format: Advanced Reader Copy (e-book)
Series: Stand alone debut
YA/MG: Middle Grades
Buy the Book: The Whole Story of Half a Girl