cover image American Betiya

American Betiya

Anuradha D. Rajurkar. Knopf, $17.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-984897-15-2

Rajurkar’s debut presents a bittersweet, searingly honest view of an Indian American teenager’s journey through first love. Eighteen-year-old Rani Kelkar has always been the perfect Indian betiya (daughter) to her highly traditional parents, even praised in the family’s community for her planned-on career in medicine. Then she meets Oliver Jensen at an art exhibition—he’s tattooed, pierced, artistic, and white, and she knows that her parents would disapprove of him deeply, even if she were allowed to date. But when he asks her out, she finds herself unable to refuse, leading to the start of a riveting secret relationship. Oliver initially seems perfect, but the more time she spends with him, the more she realizes how uncomfortable he can make her. Rani must confront the possibility that something more problematic than mere interest underlies his obsessive focus on her Indian heritage. The novel sparkles with emotional intensity; its straightforward exploration of race and romance enables Rani to make her own mistakes as she navigates her first relationship. Though some supporting characters rely heavily on cultural stereotypes, the majority of the cast, including Rani’s feminist best friend Kate, are nuanced personalities, and Rajurkar’s tight prose facilitates a gripping plot. Ages 12–up. [em]Agent: Alexander Slater, Trident Media Group. (Mar.) [/em]