Reviews 12, 13: No. 9 on the Shade Card and Starcursed

52 reviews of 2015Given the drop in the frequency of updates, it would be logical to assume that I’m being rather lazy. However, that is not true. In fact, I’ve been quite busy reviewing children’s fiction from India for Goodbooks. Two of my reviews went up in the past weeks.

No. 9 on the Shade Card (Kavitha Mandana)

At first look, it seems that No. 9 on the Shade Card is yet another book about teenage-angsty-type stuff about a protagonist born with the wrong skin colour (read “dark” in this fairness-obssessed society of ours). But if you go deeper, it surprises you:

There are many good things about Kavitha Mandana’s first YA novel, including that sports stories featuring girls are rare and No. 9 fills that gap commendably. Second, sexual harassment faced by young women is a subject often glossed over in teenage fiction. This book looks at it head-on, even though it is tackled in a far from satisfactory manner. Finally, the focus on relationships between siblings and its evolution from hostility to empathy and camaraderie is heartening.
Read the full review at

Starcursed (Nandini Bajpai)

The famous 12th-century mathematician Bhaskar II penned a well-known treatise on mathematics called Siddhanta Shiromani. This first of this four-part work was called Leelavati and some of the problems in the text were addressed to her. But who was this woman? Nobody seems to have an answer, except a reference by Akbar’s poet laureate Faizi, who speculated she might have been his daughter. The author of Starcursed, Nandini Bajpai, reimagines Leelavati’s story assuming this was true. She does so in a fictionalized account of a pair of star-crossed teenage lovers. So

yes, at one level, Starcursed is your common-or-garden teenage romance, with all the attendant drama of will-they-won’t-they-argh-why-don’t-they! But it is a beautifully drawn one, set in an unsettled twelfth-century India, charting the life of a determined young woman who makes her own choices. Even though the story has all the stereotypical tropes of a romance—most notably the tall, dark, handsome hero that the young girl swoons over—what is remarkable about it is that Leela is no damsel in distress, no victim of her circumstances.
Read the full review at


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