FICTION

How to Find What You’re Not Looking For

Penguin/Kokila. Sept. 2021. 384p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525555032.
COPY ISBN
Gr 3-7–It’s 1967 and the United States is roiling with social unrest. Ari, a young white Jewish girl, lives in a small town in Connecticut with her family. When her older sister falls in love with Raj, a young man who recently immigrated to the United States from India, Ari’s parents are vehemently opposed to the union. Torn between her love for her sister and her desire to keep her family together, Ari must find her own voice and fight for what she believes is right. This enthralling historical fiction provides a view into a momentous time in U.S. history from an uncommon perspective. As one of the few Jewish students in her town, Ari feels isolated, and her classmates see her as slow because of her dysgraphia, a learning disability that affects her ability to write. But after her teacher encourages her to try writing poetry, she finds freedom, a new way of expressing herself, and a newfound ability to connect with those around her. The story centers on a tough conflict, and Hiranandani delivers an authentic depiction of reconciliation, with all its messiness and hurt feelings. Importantly, both families have misgivings about the marriage, but their love for their children forces them to confront and overcome their own prejudices. Characters discuss critical events of the period, such as the Vietnam War, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and Loving v. Virginia. Like many people, Ari and her parents initially see themselves as existing on the periphery of the critical events of their time, and it takes a personal crisis to jolt them out of this state of mind.
VERDICT A splendid historical fiction tale of bravery and determination.

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