Expected Publication: March 1st, 2014
Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood
By: Varsha Bajaj
Albert Whitman & Company
What thirteen-year-old Abby wants most is to meet her father. She just never imagined he would be a huge film star -- in Bollywood! Now she's travelling to Mumbai to get to know her famous father. Abby is overwhelmed by the culture clash, the pressures of being the daughter of India's most famous celebrity, and the burden of keeping her identity a secret. But as she learns to navigate her new surroundings, she just might discover where she really belongs.
Abby Tara Spencer has spent her whole thirteen years wondering what her Dad was like - and most of all why he wasn't part of her life. When a severe allergic reaction to coconut topping on her frozen yogurt sends Abby to the hospital, her Mom decides it's time to tell her the whole story of what happened with her Dad all those years ago. They also decide to try and contact him for a full medical history, for Abby's sake. When they find him, things turn out more different than any of them expected. Especially Abby's Dad, who is a huge Bollywood movie star in India and didn't know she existed! Going to India to meet him and her ailing Grandmother is more than Abby ever imagined. But can they really fit into one another's lives after all these years? And what happens when the paparazzi catches wind of things? Is Abby's new-found relationship with her Dad over before it even begins?
I usually steer clear of middle grade novels. Not out of any serious dislike or aversion, but because I sometimes find myself struggling to sympathize with or remember those in-between years as I'm reading about characters in that age group. It's uncomfortable for me, makes me feel old, and causes me to give lukewarm reviews to match my feelings (in all but a few special cases usually). I'd rather avoid the whole process if at all possible. Occasionally one still manages to get into my to-read pile, when the synopsis interests me enough to overlook the classification and main character's age. This is one that managed to slip through. May I also just say how seriously impressed I am that Albert Whitman & Company put a cover on this that represents the true heritage of the main character and didn't whitewash it!!! That fact I have to say this and be surprised by it (pleasantly) is sad in today's world. But many characters/books aren't represented accurately by their covers. Thank you to the publisher for doing right by this one!
I must say that I really enjoyed this one! Abby was portrayed extremely realistically for a thirteen year old girl, with a close and happy family. Her friends were supportive and happy when she found her Dad, but also voices of reason. I particularly love Abby's relationship with her Mom for not being the single Mom, Gilmore Girls stereotype of a relationship. I loved that they were close, but her Mom was without a doubt the parent in that family. Her Grandparents were also very supportive and sweet, even when Abby went to visit her Dad. I loved the glimpses into Mumbai that we got once Abby was there, and seeing the culture of everyday India juxtaposed with the excesses of Bollywood, through the eyes of a sheltered American girl. Yet we also got to see the fun side of things, with Abby making friends with a boy named Shaan and them being tagged as extras on her Dad's movie set.
Probably the only reason I can't say this book is perfect is the cliche way that Abby's existence got into the media and the crappy way her Dad handled it at first. Although I seriously loved the ending, which made up for that almost completely. Also, the truth about why the letter Abby's Mom sent never got to her Dad was well-handled too. It didn't make her Grandpa into a villain, just a man who made a mistake. This is where I'll leave things so I don't give any major spoilers, but it was a wonderful book and I highly recommend this even if middle-grade isn't normally your thing. This one was worth stepping out of my comfort zone! :)
VERDICT: 4/5 Stars
*I received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, Albert Whitman & Company, via NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book's expected publication date is March 1st, 2014.*