Book Review

That Thing About Bollywood

That Thing About Bollywood

  • Author: Supriya Kelkar
  • Genre: MG Magical Realism/Contemporary
  • Publication Date: May 18, 2021
  • Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book. I am giving my honest opinion voluntarily.

CONTENT WARNING: mention of divorce, separation, mention of cancer

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Bollywood takes over in this contemporary, magical middle grade novel about an Indian American girl whose world turns upside down when she involuntarily starts bursting into glamorous song-and-dance routines during everyday life.

You know how in Bollywood when people are in love, they sing and dance from the mountaintops? Eleven-year-old Sonali wonders if they do the same when they’re breaking up. The truth is, Sonali’s parents don’t get along, and it looks like they might be separating.

Sonali’s little brother, Ronak, is not taking the news well, constantly crying. Sonali would never do that. It’s embarrassing to let out so many feelings, to show the world how not okay you are. But then something strange happens, something magical, maybe. When Sonali gets upset during a field trip, she can’t bury her feelings like usual—instead, she suddenly bursts into a Bollywood song-and-dance routine about why she’s upset!

The next morning, much to her dismay, Sonali’s reality has shifted. Things seem brighter, almost too bright. Her parents have had Bollywood makeovers. Her friends are also breaking out into song and dance. And somehow, everyone is acting as if this is totally normal.

Sonali knows something has gone wrong, and she suspects it has something to do with her own mismanaged emotions. Can she figure it out before it’s too late?

I’ve only recently been getting into MG books, and at first I was a little worried that this one was going to read a little young, since the MC is only 11. However, once I read a little further into it, I got completely into the story and forgot all my concerns. 

Sonali is Indian-American, and lives in a community surrounded by family members and close friends of the family, who are also referred to as aunts and uncles. While her cultural ties are strong, there’s also a strong push to keep things inside the house private, which causes a lot of issues within her immediate family, especially as Sonali’s parents are experiencing marital difficulties. This has led to Sonali pushing her emotions down, and not really knowing how to express them at all. When their arguing intensifies and her parents decide to separate, neither of the kids take it very well. Ronak, her younger brother, becomes even more emotional, crying a lot. Sonali, on the other hand, becomes even more stoic, leading to a whirlwind of emotions inside that she is unable (and unwilling) to let out. 

Overnight, Sonali’s world changes and becomes like one of her beloved Bollywood movies. I loved how she sees so much of her life through the lens of Bollywood films, since that is what she knows best, and it gave me insight into the way Indian-Americans in this story express their culture. It also talked a little about the intersection between Indian-Americans and Pakistani-Americans, and how the experiences and trauma from Partition continued to impact their lives even generations later. 

As Sonali sees her family and her social relationships change, she wants to get to the bottom of the Bollywooditis (as she calls it), to make it stop happening and get her life back to normal. But to do so, she’s going to have to make the difficult choice of learning how to manage her emotions in a different way than she’s been trying to do her entire life. 

I loved seeing her journey to getting in touch with her emotions and expressing them. Along the way, she sees her family and friends in a new light, and it was such an interesting story. This was a fun, fast-paced, adorable, and sweet story that I truly enjoyed reading. It’ll be released soon, so definitely check it out!

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