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Review: Rani Patel in Full Effect by Sonia Patel

Title: Rani Patel in Full Effect
Author: Sonia Patel
Year Published: 2015

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 301
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2017 Google Reading map): USA (HI)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book for myself

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Almost seventeen, Rani Patel appears to be a kick-ass Indian girl breaking cultural norms as a hip-hop performer in full effect. But in truth, she's a nerdy flat-chested nobody who lives with her Gujarati immigrant parents on the remote Hawaiian island of Moloka'i, isolated from her high school peers by the unsettling norms of Indian culture where "husband is God." Her parents' traditionally arranged marriage is a sham. Her dad turns to her for all his needs—even the intimate ones. When Rani catches him two-timing with a woman barely older than herself, she feels like a widow and, like widows in India are often made to do, she shaves off her hair. Her sexy bald head and hard-driving rhyming skills attract the attention of Mark, the hot older customer who frequents her parents' store and is closer in age to her dad than to her. Mark makes the moves on her and Rani goes with it. He leads Rani into 4eva Flowin', an underground hip hop crew—and into other things she's never done. Rani ignores the red flags. Her naive choices look like they will undo her but ultimately give her the chance to discover her strengths and restore the things she thought she'd lost, including her mother.

Review: I have heard a lot of good things about this book so was really looking forward to reading it. And, I felt the need for a quick YA read. But, it turns out this wasn't really a quick read for me! I had trouble getting into it, but then tonight I read the second half of the book in one sitting. Go figure.

Knowing that the author lives on Moloka'i, loves hip hop and rap, and is a psychiatrist really makes this story a powerful one. First, it's set in a place that the author knows well and that shows: she includes details that a local knows in both the scenery and the way the people talk and interact with one another. It definitely reminded me of the people I know from Hawai'i and from when I've visited.

Second, the infusion of rap is really interesting. I felt like I got to know a different, inner, side of Rani when she rapped and I can understand the power she gets from performing having had a daughter who was a dancer. They seem transformed when they are on stage and the confidence that comes from those performances is priceless.

Rani has suffered incest from years and I cannot even begin to imagine the damage that does to someone. However, Sonia Patel has had many patients suffer the same injustice so she has material from which to draw. I really felt Rani's emotional attachment to inappropriate men was spot on and very well done. She knew she was making mistakes, her friends told her she was living dangerously, but she couldn't stop herself. And her mother pretending it wasn't true is also realistic.

I won't ruin the end, but I like the direction it went. It wasn't all "happy ever after" because that isn't realistic, but it also felt right.

Challenges for which this book qualifies:

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