I Am Kavi

Holiday House. Sept. 2023. 272p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780823453658.
Gr 5 Up–Set in 1998, this novel-in-verse details an eventful year in the life of a 10-year-old Sri Lankan girl. Kavi’s father returned from the long-running civil war, maimed and unable to provide for his family. He dies of a sudden heart attack, and Kavi is shocked when her widowed mother (Amma) remarries. Kavi resents her stepfather, Siripala, and feels displaced when she learns that Amma is pregnant. Kavi wins a coveted scholarship to study at a better school in the capital city, Colombo, but her triumph feels bittersweet. In Colombo, Kavi stays with her unmarried aunt, Mala Nanda, who works as a maid for a wealthy family. Kavi grows close to their daughter, Sasha, and chauffeur, Ranjith. At school, she lies about her background to win acceptance with the most popular girls in her class. This backfires when her new friends ask her to help them cheat on an exam, and she risks losing her scholarship. Kavi’s perspective is naïve yet thoughtful as she sorts through new situations and challenges. In Colombo, terrorist attacks leave innocent victims dead and wounded; Kavi struggles to understand the senseless random violence. As she adjusts to city life, she misses Amma but finds solace in her core values as a Sinhalese-Buddhist.
VERDICT This engaging, character-driven tale will appeal to readers who enjoy novels-in-verse, and fans of Padma Venkatraman, Rajani LaRocca, and Nizrana Farook’s books.

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