Rahul lives in Indiana with his parents, younger brother Arun, and grandfather, whom he calls Bhai. He has a best friend, Chelsea, and is trying to navigate middle school. He's not quite sure what his interests are, so tries out for the football team, partly to show his nemesis, Brent, that he's not afraid to, and partly so that he can be near Justin, whom he thinks is nice. He's not particularly good at sports, and his try out ends disastrously. He also goes on an audition for a bank commercial which also doesn't go well, especially since the director tells him he's not right for the part because the parents in the commercial have already been cast and are not Indian. He finally gets on the Mathletes team, partly at Chelsea's urging because a boy she likes is on the team, and finds that he does very well. The competitions are fun, and Rahul always does well. One of the other members, Jenny, asks him to the school dance, and his parents and aunts (there is a strong community of his parents' friends who often come to the house) are pleased, even though Rahul isn't thrilled with the idea. He's wondered himself if he is gay, and has even heard his parents discussing this matter. His grandfather also has hinted at it and invited discussion, but Rahul is still figuring things out. The big event of the school year is a multicultural festival, and Rahul's mother is very involved in the setting up of it. Rahul isn't too pleased that it will be held at his school; another Indian American boy, Jai, even thinks that Rahul isn't "very Indian", and parents (especially his father, who is in an Air Supply cum Bollywood cover band) can be so embarassing. Eventually, Rahul figures out more of his own identity and starts to feel more comfortable in middle school.
This was a very well constructed middle grade novel. The characters were well developed and varied (I especially liked all the Mathletes!), the search for identity framed by a variety of activities (Loved that he tried out for football even though he had no clue about it. See: Me trying out for cheerleading in 6th grade because everyone else was!), and the plot progressed nicely while supporting the character development. Great length, good cover, and pleasantly humorous. Having supportive parents in the picture as well as a grandfather (who is in a wheelchair because of arthritis) and family friends just added another layer of interest. Nicely done romances and friendships. This #ownvoices story is a great one to hand to just about any student-- some will use it as a mirror, some as a window, and all of them will be more understanding because of it.
This is a great choice for readers of humorous, realistic fiction who enjoyed Richards' Stu Truly and Vance's Heartbreak Messenger as well as Federle's Better Nate Than Ever and Barakiva's One Man Guy.