Bhai for Now

Scholastic. Oct. 2022. 288p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781338702095.
Gr 3-7–Shaheer has gotten used to keeping to himself and watching Property Brothers on television with his grandfather. He’s never had the opportunity to stay in one place for very long as he moves around the country, accommodating his physician father’s frequent job changes. Imagine his shock and confusion when, on his first day of eighth grade in a brand-new school, he runs into his doppelgänger! It turns out that Shaheer and his identical twin, Ashar, were separated when their parents divorced. Ashar lives with their mother, enjoying ice hockey and studying for the entrance exam to a prestigious high school. Neither parent has ever been open about the other, so the twins (with the cooperation of their cousin Zohra) cook up some classic trading-places high jinks. In this reworked Parent Trap, the story is completely driven by the actions and feelings of the kids. The narrative perspective switches back and forth between the twins, witnessing them getting to know their new relatives and confronting the conflicting feelings that come with discovering such a long-held and damaging secret. The parents don’t rekindle any romantic attachment and, in fact, demonstrate some harsh, but emotionally honest, vitriol towards each other. Ashar and Shaheer, who is starting to form connections for the first time in his life, must convince their parents that brotherhood, family, and community all matter more than old grievances. Details of both families’ Pakistani heritage and Muslim faith are seamlessly integrated into the story.
VERDICT An uplifting, culturally inclusive, and lively exploration of family bonds.

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