Nikhil Out Loud

Nikhil Out Loud
Age Range
Release Date
October 11, 2022
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Thirteen-year-old Nikhil Shah is the beloved voice actor for Raj Reddy on the hit animated series Raj Reddy in Outer Space. But when his mom temporarily moves them to the small town in Ohio where she grew up to take care of Nikhil’s sick grandfather, Nikhil feels as out of orbit as his character.

Nikhil’s fame lands him the lead in the school musical, but he’s terrified that everyone will realize he’s a fraud once they find out he has stage fright. And when a group of conservative parents start to protest having an openly gay actor in the starring role, Nikhil feels like his life would be easier if only he could be Raj Reddy full-time.

Then Nikhil wakes up one morning and hears a crack in his voice, which means his job playing Raj will have to come to an end. Life on earth is way more complicated than life on television. And some mysteries—like new friendships or a sick grandparent or finding the courage to speak out—don’t wrap up neatly between commercial breaks.

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Brush with celebrity... in Ohio!
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Nikhil and his mother live in Los Angeles; she's a graphic designer who started her own business after the pandemic, and he's a voice actor who is the main character in the animated series Raj Ready in OuterSpace. He's all set to start 8th grade with his best friend, Anton, but his mother informs him that they're moving back to live with her parents in Ohio because her father, Nikhil's Nana, is ill and her mother, Nani needs help. It's always just been Nikhil and his mom; his father is remarried and has a new family in Texas. Hikhil will be able to still record for Raj Ready, and he's a little curious about why he hasn't really spent time with his grandparents. He starts at Sycamore Middle School, and things go fairly well. He meets DeSean, who is active in the school's drama program and shows him around. Even when kids realize that he's an actor, they are still nice. Monica Kim is glad to see a successful Asian actor, and when a reporter from the school newspaper interviews him and (with Nikhil's permission) mentions that he's gay, everyone is supportive. He gets the lead in the school play, which feels awkward; he tried out mainly to be with his new friends, and knows that DeSean is a better singer. When a community member complains that Nikhil is using his position as a start to influence fellow students with his gay agenda and wants him to be pulled from his lead role, Nikhil doesn't feel he can step aside to let DeSean have the part. The school does not bow down to the woman's ridiculous demands, and Nikhil's mother, both of DeSean's moms, and his classmates all assure him that they are glad he is in the play. His grandfather, on the other hand, is not pleased with the voice acting or the fact that Nikhil is public about his identity. Adding to Nikhil's stress is the fact that his voice is changing, which leads to problems with the television show. When the community member plans to picket the school production, how will Nikhil and his friends handle this situation?
Good Points
Pancholy has a very appealing and positive writing style, which is much needed in middle grade. Nikhil has a lot going on in his life that could make him anxious and unhappy, but he manages to consult the supportive people in his life and move forward in constructive ways. I was a big fan of how he could tell that DeSean wasn't happy with him, and eventually had a helpful conversation with him, which led to DeSean trying to help him with his role. The family dynamics were interesting, and I'm sure that there are a lot of grandmothers of middle school students who started careers in the 1970s and were somewhat disappointed in their trajectories. Nikhil's voice acting work is fascinating and portrayed realistically. I very much appreciated that this was set in Ohio and like Stamper's Small Town Pride showed community members that were mostly supportive of Nikhil. Interesting book with humor as well as a lot to think about.

There were several interesting minor characters that I wish we had learned more about. There was a faire amount going on in the book, so there really wasn't much time, but I would have liked to know more about Monica and Mateo. We get interesting glimpses of the parents, which is just about right for middle grade.

Now that we've had a theater club at my school, there are a few more readers for books with performing arts, so I will definitely purchase this. Pancholy's experience with voice acting brings a unique angle to the narrative. His first book, The Best At It, is very popular, and a favorite of one of our teachers.
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