cover image Gifted


Nikita Lalwani, Author . Random $23.95 (273p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6648-3

In this penetrating coming-of-age debut from London-based Lalwani, 14-year-old Rumika Vasi struggles to fulfill her mathematical gifts and her family's demands on them, while also finding friendship and romance. Rumi, labeled “gifted” in kindergarten, becomes subject to the grim home teaching of her father, Mahesh, a professor of mathematics at the University of Swansea in Wales. The goal: to be accepted to Oxford by age 14. Shreene, Rumi's mother, resentfully accepts the household dominance of Rumi's studies while worrying about how to raise her to be a proper young Indian woman. Rumi longs to be in India, where lots of girls are good at math and where she feels at home among her extended family. The pull of romance is also soon part of Rumi's equation. Lalwani does a nice job with the myriad cultural contradictions: a bewildered Shreene, for example, resorts to “archaic” scripts from her childhood, leading her to tell Rumi that “[o]nly white people have sex” and that Indian babies come from prayer. Well done, too, is Rumi's warm relationship with India. Lalwani doesn't have characterization fully down, but the pain and confusion she presents are deeply felt. (Sept.)