Publishing Date: April 9, 2019
Publisher: Running Press
Young Adult Contemporary
The Premise from the Publisher: "Nira Ghani has always dreamed of becoming a musician. Her Guyanese parents, however, have big plans for her to become a scientist or doctor. Nira's grandmother and her best friend, Emily, are the only people who seem to truly understand her desire to establish an identity outside of the one imposed on Nira by her parents. When auditions for jazz band are announced, Nira realizes it's now or never to convince her parents that she deserves a chance to pursue her passion. As if fighting with her parents weren't bad enough, Nira finds herself navigating a new friendship dynamic when her crush, Noah, and notorious mean-girl, McKenzie "Mac," take a sudden interest in her and Emily, inserting themselves into the fold. So, too, does Nira's much cooler (and very competitive) cousin Farah. Is she trying to wiggle her way into the new group to get closer to Noah? Is McKenzie trying to steal Emily's attention away from her? As Farah and Noah grow closer and Emily begins to pull away, Nira's trusted trumpet "George" remains her constant, offering her an escape from family and school drama. But it isn't until Nira takes a step back that she realizes she's not the only one struggling to find her place in the world. As painful truths about her family are revealed, Nira learns to accept people for who they are and to open herself in ways she never thought possible" (Running Press).
My overall thoughts and review: I was intrigued by the premise of this book when I first heard of it because I always enjoy a book about an individual who takes the risk and courage to chase after their own dreams. I find that as a child of an immigrant, there's a certain pressure that is present to always work hard and be the best. As someone who grew up with a parent who wanted me to pursue a medical degree, I found a lot of the pressure that Nira faced in the book relatable. I saw aspects of my own family in Nira's family, and I think a lot of readers reading this would find aspects that they can find similarities in as well. I will say, brace yourself to feel some frustration, similar to the kind youi would feel around those relatives that drive you up the wall at family events. At times, I wished I could reach into the book and shake characters like Nira's uncle Raj or Farah. They were incredibly frustrating, and I'm proud of Nira for always holding her ground with them and not letting them get the best of her. I liked that despite a lot of issues she faced with her parents, they were able to overcome them and come to a compromise. I will say that Nira's grandma was definitely my favorite character. I loved her interactions with other characters and just her overall fighting spirit. In addition to family dynamics, the book focuses a lot on friendship and cliques. Nira has a best friend named Emily, but things start to shift when Mac is introduced, and a possible love interest, Noah. It reminds you that first impressions can alter the way you look at someone in the long run, and how to not judge a book by its cover. Lastly, music is a big component in the book as it's the driving force for Nira. She finds herself in her passion for music and it was nice to see what a big role music played for her. The parts that I found frustrating were mostly certain characters. Like I said earlier, her uncle and cousin drove me absolutely bonkers. I understand that they added to the overall plot, but they were still frustrating. Overall though, despite frustrating characters, I really did enjoy the book. It's a good own voices story that focuses on finding yourself, family, and friendship dynamics. If you are looking for a YA diverse contemporary read, then this is the book for you!
My rating of the book: ✮✮✮½ - 3.5/5 stars
Available for purchase at:
Chapters/Indigo, Kobo Books, Amazon, and Book Depository
What is your writing process?
Is it too honest to confess my writing strategy consists of a lot (a lot!!) of staring at a blank page, inhaling tea, and eating way too many cupcakes?
Luckily, I also do a few other things. I re-read story-writing books (think of Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat, Robert McKee’s Story, and the like), then I go back to the reams and reams of writing outlines I have printed off from conferences.
I sketch out the characters, their arc, and plots. For me, writing a novel is like trying to cross the ocean—an impossible task if I try to do it in one jump. I find that having an outline breaks a big job into small, achievable goals.
Once I have my outline and scenes, I start in, and I give myself daily/weekly/monthly deadlines, as well as daily/weekly/monthly rewards for putting in a good-faith effort. (I concentrate on effort over output, because as writers know, sometimes you can try very, very hard, but at the end of the day, all you have is a sentence).
After the draft is completed, I let it rest, then it’s time for edits! And when that’s done, it’s beta readers, then off to my agent, then off to the publisher, then the world. :-)
Were there any particular scenes you found really difficult to write?
Truly, I find everything about writing difficult—and Nira was tricky because there’s a line where my growing up and her story blurred.
I really loved Nira’s story, I loved her and her eccentric family, and I think that’s important for writers. If we love the idea, the story, then it’s easy (easier) to remind ourselves that it’s okay if the story takes time to unfold, and it’s okay to take the breath and go slowly.
I think the ending was probably the most difficult because I had lived with these characters for so long, and now, it was time to say goodbye.
What are some of your favorite scenes?
Hands down, any time Grandma was in the scene. She is **so** based off my grandmothers. It was a joyful experience to imagine them talking and then shifting it to Grandma’s voice.
I also loved writing Emily’s scenes. She is such a great friend and I loved the slightly off-kilter way she filters life.
The other scenes I loved were the moments when Nira’s worldview shifts. It was a lot of fun creating those scenes, giving her a chance to grow and expand, and to see the world as a nuanced creation rather than a simple black-and-white experience.
Thank you so much, Natasha for stopping by today on the blog tour! Be sure to stop by the other stops for more reviews and content from Natasha! :D
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from Hachette Book Group for consideration/review and participation in the blog tour. All opinions are my own.