That Thing about Bollywood – Supriya Kelkar; Simon Kids; 9781534466739, 2021
Rating 1-5 (5 is an excellent or starred review) 4
Genre: fantasy or magical realism
What did you like about the book? Sonali is an Indian American girl whose family is coming apart. She and her little brother Ronak’s parents fight all the time, but Sonali is keeping it a secret from all her friends (partly due to her father’s insistence on secrecy and keeping family business private). She’s refusing to face her emotions about her parents’ separation and instead hides her feelings from her friends and family, which is causing problems in her relationship with her best friend, Zara. Then something weird happens — her life turns into one long Bollywood movie! She wakes up one day to discover that she has a personal soundtrack that plays all the time in the background and occasionally people break into song to express their emotions. When Sonali expresses amazement at the changes, everyone around her is surprised — this is the way the world has always been for them! At first, Sonali thinks that she needs to hide her emotions even better to make “Bollywooditis” go away, but it doesn’t work. In fact, things get even more extreme. Her parents get crazy Bollywood makeovers and rooms change to bright technicolor designs. Eventually, Sonali discovers that she needs to be in touch with her emotions and that allowing herself to feel sad and angry will help bring the world back to normal.
What a fun twist on an important topic! Understanding and allowing yourself to feel emotions when difficult things happen is really important. Sonali has unfortunately learned in her family that it’s better to keep her emotions hidden; this is a common problem that can snowball into many other problems, as it does in this book. Sonali’s friend Zara misinterprets Sonali’s moodiness as being about her and her family dysfunction only gets worse as her father and Sonali try to hide the separation and pending divorce. Kelkar deftly examines the importance of sharing all your inner messiness with those who love you most; having that courage builds relationships and helps foster inner growth, as well! As a side note, I really love the cover of this one! Everything about it — the color, the jewelry, the shape of the dance move is really appealing.
Anything you did not like about the book. It felt like the conclusion was a long time coming (and certain parts were repetitive), but it was worth it! The ending was very satisfying and realistic.
To whom would you recommend this book? Students who are familiar with Bollywood will particularly enjoy this, but I also highly recommend it for any student who likes emotional character driven stories.
Who should buy this book? Most elementary and middle school libraries
Where would you shelve it? Realistic (the fantasy is a relatively small element)
Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes! It’s charming and wonderful.
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Laura Gardner, Dartmouth Middle School, Dartmouth
Date of review: 7/8/21