Friday, July 8, 2016

Mirror in the Sky » Book Review

I cannot stress this enough, Mirror in the Sky is NOT in any way a science-fiction novel. I typically don't like to delve too deeply or research books before picking them up. I saw that Penguin was hyping up this book, realized that it was written by an Indian author and featured an Indian-American protagonist and decided to pick it up from my local library. I also made the mistake of assuming that there would be stronger sci-fi elements to the book.

Yeh Tara Woh Tara


Our protagonist's name is Tara Krishnan. Tara means 'star' in Hindi and happens to be part of the title of one of my favorite Hindi songs (hence the sub-heading). Tara is half-Indian with an Indian father who runs a restaurant and a white mother who teaches ballet. She is entering her junior year at Brierly without her best friend, Meg, who has decided to study for a year abroad.

Their world soon discovers the existence of a mirror planet, where things seem similar and yet a little different. This sparks a lot of spiritual and philosophical debates amongst Tara's family and friends. That is the extent of the science-fiction premise in the novel. The rest reads like a contemporary high-school story about Tara, and her family, and her friends. In fact, Khorana calls it a contemporary speculative novel, which describes the atmosphere of the book very well.

Family & Friends


I loved Tara and her family. Her relationship with her parents was genuine and wonderful, but not suger-coated. All three of them have dealt with serious disappointments and that has had a substantial impact on the family. I thought Khorana did a great job depicting the loving bonds that existed and persisted through their hardships and struggles. It was woven together with the appearance of the mirror planet, and the self-reflection that came along with such a discovery.

Without Meg, Tara felt absolutely bereft at her high school. She hated her school and feared having to sit in the library for lunch. There were moments that I felt she was just being a little over-dramatic. But then, I thought about my high school years and remembered the holy terror I felt having to walk into a cafeteria when I knew absolutely no one, and realized she wasn't being all that dramatic after all. Lucky for her, she happened to accidentally become friends with the popular crowd. Even better, one of them is Nick, her crush. Only he's crazy in love with Halle.

Halle is the Queen Bee. Everyone in the friend group revolves around her, especially Nick. Tara then spends the rest of the time trying to deal with her crush, and navigating the new friendship dynamics she finds herself in.

Being Indian


This book addresses what it is like to be a brown teenager in an all-white school. As such, Tara has always felt like an outsider even after she is deemed a part of the popular crowd. She often feels stereotyped because of her skin color, and has some struggles with her guidance counselor because of that. I thought it was an interesting topic to read about especially since I have never felt discriminated against for being in Indian in America (at least the places I've lived). I don't know if this is the right thing to do, but I often take advantage of the stereotypes.

People assume that Indians are smart and great at school. I happen to enjoy that inherent assumption. When I first moved here at the age of fourteen, numerous people remarked upon my perfect use of American English down the accent. Many more told me how surprised they were that I could speak and write so well. I took it as an opportunity to disavow my Indian heritage since I had spent the majority of my life out of India anyway. I hated being thought of as backward, and I disliked living in India anyway, so I didn't embrace that part of my identity. For these reasons, I couldn't relate to Tara's struggles with racism, but I am glad to have gotten to opportunity to read and understand her perspective.

Pacing


I wasn't very pleased with the pacing of the book. Mirror in the Sky kept my attention, but I found the first two-thirds of the book to be a little too slow for me. Towards the end of the book, we get to see Tara and her friends celebrating their friendship with child-like joy. That was the moment when I realized how much I enjoyed these characters and I wished we could have spent more time with them in that state of being. The last third of the book felt a little rushed. A ton of things were happening at once, but that was when I truly felt engrossed in the book. It's just a pity that it took so long to get there.

I wanted to address the romance aspect very quickly. I LOVED how the author chose to write it. It is one of the more realistic depiction of a high school crush/romance that I can think of. I think Tara handled herself with true maturity, while remaining a 16 yr-old girl.

Last Thoughts


I believe Mirror in the Sky is a promising start to Khorana's writing career. I look forward to reading more of her stories!

11 comments:

  1. I always laugh when I read about students hiding in the library at lunch and how horrifying that it. As a librarian I am glad there is a place where students feel safe. This books sounds good. I didn't know you are Indian-American, so I am delighted that this book was one you could relate to but how awful to have people ask you about why you don't have an accent. Where do you live?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I would have loved to be able to go to the library during lunch! But unfortunately, at my first school, we actually weren't allowed to. Everyone HAD to be in the cafeteria. It was an absolute nightmare for me. Thankfully, I eventually befriended my school librarian and I was allowed in there :P.
    I live in Michigan, but I've lived in Singapore, India, and the UAE.
    There are a couple more contemporary books written by Indian authors and featuring Indian characters coming out in the fall/winter. So I'm excited to get to them as well :).

    ReplyDelete
  3. Mirror in the Sky sure sounds like a euphemism for the characters involved. Though, it sounds too much like a parallel universe? And I struggle with that trope, to be honest.

    ReplyDelete
  4. It isn't my favorite trope (unless it deals with time-travel, lol). I liked how it was handled here. It was sort of like everyone was going through a mid-life crisis at the same time. Moments of intense self-reflection.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great review! I've been looking forward to this one - it came in at my library recently and I will have to pick it up one of these days.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you Lauren!

    ReplyDelete
  7. My library seems to be a sort of hub. We are usually packed in before school and all three lunches, though students aren't allowed to eat in the library. unfortunately fewer kids are checking out the books, though.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I know exactly what you mean girl, because I went to a school where it was predominately white. There were a handful of blacks. I never really noticed the difference, until I was a junior. But the good thing about it was that we all got along and there were never really any problems, you know? But being a teenager, I sometimes had problems with fitting in, but not because of my skin color but because my school had a lot of clics and all that.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I know what you mean! I think that's why I feel the need to read more minority-focused books because my experience isn't the norm. I just happened to be lucky in my life experiences. Especially with the black lives matter movement happening right now, I feel the need to understand those dynamics so that we can improve our society.

    ReplyDelete
  10. This is the first review I've seen of this! The author's literary agent has on their website that it sold for big money, so I've been kind of surprised there hasn't been much marketing for it (as far as I can tell). Personally, I think emphasizing it's a contemporary speculative story is important. I went in expecting science fiction (the first chapter is so standard "alien book" set-up!) and science fiction was not what I got. I didn't like the characters much, though either. My first thought was "Mean Girls," and I see other Goodreads reviewers mentioning the same. Just not my story, I guess.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Yes, I can definitely see the Mean Girls vibe! It's definitely not anything special. I think it made an impression on me just because of the Indian-American aspect and how that relates specifically to me.

    ReplyDelete