Forward Me Back to You

Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Apr. 2019. 432p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374304928.
Gr 9 Up–Interweaving the stories of two teens from differing socioeconomic backgrounds, this novel authentically depicts the stark realities of confronting trauma and navigating self-discovery. Sixteen-year-old Katina King is a Brazilian jujitsu champion and scholarship student who attends a prep school in Oakland, and is emotionally struggling in the aftermath of a sexual assault. Thinking that her biracial identity marks her as Other in her school, Katina feels unsupported by her peers as she processes her trauma. Eighteen-year-old Robin Thornton was adopted from a Bengali orphanage by two wealthy white Americans but can’t seem to find his place in their world. Beyond his love of cars and superhero films, Robin does not connect much with anyone or anything around him. Hoping that a change of environment will heal Kat, her mother sends her to Boston to finish out the rest of the school year. There she befriends Robin at a Christian youth group where both teens decide to travel with their pastor to Kolkata during summer break to work with young survivors of human trafficking. Kat hopes to teach the young women martial arts and empower them to fight back and Robin (who shifts back to his birth name, Ravi) searches for his birth mother. Simple prose belies complex themes around faith, service, personal identity, and trauma, and Perkins adroitly threads carefully balanced perspectives throughout the story and draws readers’ attention to cultural bias.
VERDICT This timely, realistic story filled with lots of heart yet devoid of a pat ending is sure to capture readers’ interests and spark contemplative conversations around global issues and activism. A must-have for teen and new adult collections.

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