author: Kavita Daswani
date: HarperTeen; 2012
main character: Shalini Agarwal
reading level: 5.0
16-year-old Shalini’s father has taken a job in American and this means taking his immediate family away from their extended family in India to live with him in California. This entire family has lived together in one huge home, where they nurtured and supported on another, celebrated life and practiced traditions.
All that changed when the four members of Shalini’s immediate family left. Their new home was quiet. There was no one to talk to and few people for whom to cook. And, Shalini’s fiancé, the one she had since she was three years old, was no longer her constant companion.
Shalini had to find a way to fit in; to make friends and to enjoy her new life. After all, her younger sister was doing it! When Shalini does begin to fit in, I don’t know if she herself ever realized how much she was giving up. Meeting Toby, being alone with him and kissing him certainly made her realize things were changing fast!!
Shalini’s mother could find no reason to try and like her new home. She hated it. Her resistance to living in America was a central part of the story, but not well developed. I get that this is a YA story, but with family so central to this teen, I expected more. I think I needed to know why Shalini never gave up on her mother, because I did! Perhaps developing this would have distracted too much from the story as it was?
I liked the diction and grammar Daswani chose for this story as it fit Shalini and transported us to see life from her perspective.
Later as we rode home, my father asked Sangita and me if we had enjoyed meeting our new friends. I nodded as I gazed out of the front passenger side window.
“Renuka is really, really nice,” I said.
“Yes, she seems to be a very good girl,” my father agreed, turning on his indicator light to merge into another lane. “Very straightforward, honest and polite. I talked to her while we were having chai after lunch. And I said to her, “You are how my Shalini would be if she was brought up in America.’ Was I wrong to say that, beta?”
“No, Papa,” I said quietly. “I think you’re quite right.”
Lovetorn is a good story that is not so much an immigrant story as one of fitting in. And, of love.