Nikhil Out Loud

HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Oct. 2022. 320p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780063091924.
Gr 5 Up–After the Kids’ Cartoon Awards, 13-year-old Indian American voice actor Nikhil Shah learns he’ll be moving from Los Angeles to his mom’s hometown in Ohio. His nana is ill, and they need to be there to help care for him. On the first day of eighth grade, Nikhil meets DeSean, who is Black, and is welcomed into the Sycamore Middle School theater crowd, which includes Korean American Monica and Mexican American Mateo. After being cast as the lead in the eighth grade musical, Nikhil reveals to the school newspaper that he’s gay. Soon a homophobic community member threatens to protest the play if Nikhil remains cast. But the Sycamore community rallies around Nikhil and his friends, and together they show that there is no place for hate in school. Nikhil’s cup is full to the brim with complex family relationships, puberty, and his burgeoning community activism all vying for his attention. At times readers may feel overwhelmed trying to keep up with everything Nikhil is experiencing, but perhaps that’s the point. Ultimately, Nikhil and his loved ones learn that running away from challenges doesn’t make them go away—the only way to find happiness is to speak your truth.
VERDICT A powerful and well-timed story that demonstrates just how much representation matters.

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