BookPage Teen Top Pick, October 2016
Sixteen-year-old Rani Patel is part of the only Indian family—Gujarati, to be precise—on the Hawaiian island of Moloka'i. And that family is falling apart. When Rani discovers her father’s affair, he is unrepentant. After years of unquestioning obedience, Rani’s mother finally finds the strength to kick him out. Feeling abandoned by her father and invisible to her mother, Rani deals with it all through the music that has always saved her: rap. Rani’s deep love of hip-hop culture empowers her to write lyrics and slam poems full of swagger, female empowerment and social awareness. But while her alter ego, MC Sutra, exudes confidence, Rani has yet to confront the horrific truth of her relationship with her father. As she hones her skills as an MC and a flirtatious relationship with an older man becomes something more, Rani’s past continues to intrude on her present.
Rani’s environment leaps off the page in vivid and satisfying detail, from the winding roads and small shops of Moloka'i to the intricacies of ’90s hip-hop fashion. The lyrics she writes are particularly convincing—good enough to show that her talent is serious, but just unpolished enough to be written by a teenager. Author Sonia Patel is a psychiatrist, and her determination to portray Rani’s response to trauma truthfully is unrelenting. Rani’s past affects her choices again and again, despite her undeniable intelligence and drive.
As young readers root for Rani, they will gain a deeper understanding of abuse and addiction through this powerful and gripping novel.