The Whole Story of Half a Girl

212p. Delacorte. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-385-74128-6; PLB $19.99. ISBN 978-0-375-98995-7; ebook $10.99. ISBN 978-0-375-98441-9. LC number unavailable.
Gr 4–7—Sonia Nadhamuni's world is turned upside down the summer before sixth grade, when her father loses his job and falls into clinical depression. Due to financial strain, Sonia is taken out of her progressive private school and enrolled in the larger, less intimate Maplewood Middle School. There, her Jewish American and East Indian heritage raises questions among her classmates, and she feels like an outsider. For the first time in her life, she feels unsure of how to articulate her racial and cultural identity. Additionally, she deals with angst over friendships, trying to decide if she should join the in crowd by becoming a cheerleader with popular Kate or remain on the social fringe with budding novelist Alisha. At home, Sonia feels alienated from her parents: her father's depression casts a pall over the entire family, and her mother's increased workload and stress adversely affect her relationship with her daughter. Things come to a head when Mr. Nadhamuni disappears; while her mother looks for him, Sonia reevaluates her friendships and accepts the fact that her dual heritage makes her a unique and whole girl. Hiranandani's thoughtful debut eloquently balances humor with sophisticated issues related to cultural identity, economic hardship, and mental health. An excellent addition with timeless appeal.—Lalitha Nataraj, Escondido Public Library, CA
When her dad loses his job, sixth-grader Sonia Nadhamuni leaves a sheltered private school for public school and must suddenly field questions about her unusual name, dark complexion, and Jewish/Indian heritage; meanwhile, her family changes as her father grapples with depression. Though Hiranandani's tackling of weighty topics falters, Sonia's uncertainty of where she belongs--or where she wants to belong--resonates.

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