Akriti is in the eleventh standard. She studies in Chennai International Public School. She loves sketching and listening to music. She isn’t all that bothered about her studies, always nodding off in class and barely managing to pass. She hates her younger brother Ranjith, a do gooder and teacher’s pet. She thinks her Amma doesn’t understand her and her Appa is only concerned about her (lack of) focus on studies. She is apathetic to her friends, Preethi and Karthik. She doesn’t care where her life is headed and isn’t interested in what life is like outside her room. Just a teen being a teen, right? Except that Akriti is in a wheelchair due to an accident and will never walk again.
Akriti keeps people at bay with her scary show-me-sympathy-and-I-will-crush-you image. So anyone who is worried about being slighted and offended (both of which are activities she takes great pleasure in) will not come within two feet of her. She uses her situation to behave badly, knowing fully well that she won’t be reprimanded harshly for her actions as people pity her. Mocking everything is her way of getting back at life and maintaining the upper hand. She takes the people who care about her for granted. Having lost something precious she thinks she doesn’t have to care about anything.
What happens when life takes a turn and someone close to Akriti is in danger? Will she wake up and smell the coffee, or continue sleeping with her eyes closed shut, acting like she didn’t care?
For those who have suffered loss, who have felt that they have been singled out and dealt a blow by life and thought everything has been taken away from them, Unbroken shows that it is always your choice to get back up, to live with dignity, accept life for what it is and choose to be happy in spite of it.
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- Akriti is a strong protagonist. She is unable to do the things for herself which most people take for granted, but she hates dependency of any kind and is fierce about doing the things that she can do by herself.
- The narrative is laced with Akriti’s sarcastic retorts. She finds humour in unexpected places due to the way she views the world.
I thought about saying I had to study, but no one was likely to believe that. I’d be better off saying I was breeding elephants.
- The relationship between siblings is portrayed realistically – a bond fraught with complications, but one with the kind of understanding that only growing up together in the same household can bring.
- The danger ahead sign used as paragraph breaks is interesting and apt given Akriti’s penchant for violent outbursts.
Faced with an avalanche of sympathy, I had made it crystal clear that if anyone dared to talk to me or show any sign of compassion, I could not promise an easy day for them.
- Akriti doesn’t think smoking is cool. It has been rightly shown as a destructive habit which can have serious consequences.
- From the look of the quirky book cover designed by Ayushi Saxena, I expected it to be rough, like the brown paper we used to cover our school books with, but it’s smooth which plays with your mind.
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- The back-stories of her friends aren’t explored much.
- The twist at the end seemed too melodramatic to feel real.
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- Conveying the worldview of a wheelchair bound protagonist is a challenging proposition for a writer. I haven’t come across many protagonists who are in a wheelchair in popular fiction, except Will Traynor in Me Before You but he isn’t the narrator there. Nandhika Nambi’s Unbroken is that rare book where we get into the narrator’s head and see the world as she sees it. The author has done a stellar job in showing what the protagonist’s life is like – her trials and tribulations without ever arousing pity.
- Disability isn’t something that is normally talked about. People who are disabled are in too much pain to talk about it, and if they do, they rarely find the right platform to voice their thoughts; and their caregivers are too weary to take part in the discussion. Hence the discussions, if any, ultimately go nowhere. The world at large looks at them differently due to its prejudices and ill formed opinions. Nandhika Nambi’s Unbroken gives us a protagonist in a wheelchair and brings the discussion to the forefront.
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- It’s heartening to see parents take their daughter to a child psychologist and not ask others’ opinion or wait around till she has a nervous breakdown.
- Akriti isolated herself and chose to go to her old school where she was bound to be pitied and singled out for being in a wheelchair. She didn’t join support groups as her parents had suggested and walked through the darkness alone till she was forced to reexamine her life. It could have helped her cope better and recover faster knowing she wasn’t alone.
- Akriti is an unusual protagonist. You don’t want to root for her in the beginning and she doesn’t arouse pity as she doesn’t give off the vibe of being a damsel in distress. By the time the book ends she will have wormed her way into your heart and you will be rooting for her, hoping she finds a way back to herself.
Explore the world of an unlikely (and unlikable) heroine!
A copy of this book was given to me by the publishers, Duckbill in return for an honest review. Thanks Duckbill.