Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Karma by Cathy Ostlere

Karma by Cathy Ostlere (Razorbill, 2011)

Summary from publisher:
It is October 31, 1984, and fifteen-year-old Maya -- half Hindu, half Sikh --- is travelling from Canada to New Delhi, India, with her father.  In her arms she carries only two things:
- A brand new diary -- her only confidant.
- The ashes of her mother.
Maya and her father have come to India to deliver the ashes to their final resting place.  On the very night they arrive, Indira Ghandi -- Prime Minister of India -- is gunned down in her garden, betrayed by those closest to her.  In the hours that follow, the city plunges into chaos, and Maya finds herself at the center of one of the bloodiest massacres in the country's modern history.  Thousands are murdered.  Thousands are lost.
Unable to find her father, Maya must disguise her identity and rely upon the help of Sandeep -- a boy she's just met -- if she is to stay alive and make it home.  That is, if she can open her heart enough to love, forgive, and discover what home truly means.

I love, love, loved this beautifully written free verse novel.  Maya's character is haunted by the memories of her mother's unhappy life and the effects of that life on her own.  When Maya is thrust into the turmoil of the riots in New Delhi, she has to rely on her wits and intelligence to help her survive and, hopefully, be reunited with her father.

There were several points in this story when I just couldn't imagine that things would work out for Maya.  She seemed to be at the very bottom of a well with no means of escape, but yet, due to various strokes of luck (and a lot of kindness of others) she manages to muddle through.

I think teen girls who like a bit of adventure and realism with their romance will enjoy this epic free verse novel.  Though the setting, religions, and some of the words may be unfamiliar to younger readers, Ostlere provides enough context in her verse to help the reader understand.  Definitely worth a read!

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