THAT THING ABOUT BOLLYWOOD, by Supriya Kelkar, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, May 18, 2021, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 8-12)
An Indian American girl’s life is turned upside down when she involuntarily starts bursting into Bollywood routines in Supriya Kelkar’s That Thing About Bollywood.
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? —Synopsis provided by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
That Thing About Bollywood reads like a movie. Author Supriya Kelkar’s writing has a cinematic feel to it, especially when Sonali starts singing and dancing. By the end, even someone who’s never heard of a Bollywood movie would have a good sense of how they play out.
While the Bollywood elements add flavor to the novel, it’s the emotions that play out during the song-and-dance numbers that really carry the book forward. It’s through the music that Sonali is able to access and begin to process her own feelings.
It does take a while for the Bollywood-like action to begin, making That Thing About Hollywood feel a touch too long. The pacing picks up about a third of the way in, giving the book a much-needed lift. A glossary of terms also would have been a nice touch.
That Thing About Bollywood is an engaging read that will especially appeal to readers who enjoy music, dance and film.
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