I am a fan of well written, intelligent, funny, young adult novels. But given that there’s a dearth of such books in India,Taklu and Shroom, written by Ranjit Lal is a welcome addition. I had bought the book on an impulse, because of my abiding interest in YA books, but I kept postponing reading it because of the unappealing cover. The fact that the author had won the Vodafone-Crossword Children’s Award 2010 for his book Faces in the Water piqued my interest and ultimately got me started.
Happy-go-lucky Gaurav lives with his parents, baby sister Mihika, whom he dotes on, and his pet dog Rani, which he absolutely adores. When Rani is mistakenly perceived as a threat and killed by the security guards of the Prime Minister, his world is forever altered . Inconsolable after her death, he becomes sullen and develops a violent streak, perhaps unable to channel his inner rage. He is unable to forget the cruel way Rani was taken away from him, and is hell bent on revenge. Due to the incessant media speculation and his fragile mental condition, his family takes him away to a quiet place in the mountains, so that he can heal and move on with his life. His relationship with his girlfriend Zara is forcibly ended by her parents, who think that he is a deranged individual. Alone, friendless, and lost even to his family, nothing matters to him.
In the mountains he meets Rukmini, an orphan recovering from cancer. She’s a force of nature and is always up to mischief, giving her carers the slip. When their worlds collide, an unlikely friendship is born. She takes an instant liking to Gaurav, and even though he is initially aloof and resists her friendly advances, her innocence wins him over. But nothing is as it seems in their mountainous retreat – something sinister is in the air. Who are the people claiming to be ornithologists, out with their equipment recording bird calls in the mountains, but are unable to even identify them properly? And what is Gaurav hiding from Rukmini?
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- The relationship between Gaurav and his pet Rani is portrayed nicely. It will immediately make you want to get a dog.
- The easy intimacy in a budding romance is done quite well. It shows how a teenager in love really behaves, as opposed to the saaf sutra ideal version we are usually fed with. The modern setting, where teens dating and having relationships is not frowned upon, is a relief.
- A deep friendship develops between Gaurav and Rukmini, and although it starts on the basis of superficial similarity (shaved heads), it grows into something which will stand the test of time.The friendship and camaraderie between Taklu (Gaurav) and Shroom (Rukmini) is one of the highlights of the book.
- The book gives you protagonists to root for, and even the secondary and tertiary characters are well etched.
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- I could see the plot twist a mile away, but since I am not a teenager, my opinion hardly matters here.
- There are some passages which goes against the advice show not tell; 50-60 pages could have been easily chopped off. It would have made for a crisper narrative, one which would hold your attention till the end.
- The descriptions of natural beauty were good, but it felt as if the author was describing his own experiences. The atmosphere and the setting were spot on, but it was overwrought with words, derailing the flow.
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- For a book published by Harper Collins, it has an uninspiring cover, and the name isn’t what you would call catchy to draw in the audience it was written for. I wish they took children’s literature and books for young adults more seriously in this country, though things are changing.
- Casual drinking and reckless behavior is shown without being judgemental; a parental guidance advisory for younger audience is recommended.
An Indian YA novel to sink your teeth into!