My latest book is The One Who Swam With The Fishes.
"A mesmerizing account of the well-known story of Matsyagandha ... and her transformation from fisherman’s daughter to Satyavati, Santanu’s royal consort and the Mother/Progenitor of the Kuru clan." - Hindustan Times
"Themes of fate, morality and power overlay a subtle and essential feminism to make this lyrical book a must-read. If this is Madhavan’s first book in the Girls from the Mahabharata series, there is much to look forward to in the months to come." - Open Magazine
"A gleeful dollop of Blytonian magic ... Reddy Madhavan is also able to tackle some fairly sensitive subjects such as identity, the love of and karmic ties with parents, adoption, the first sexual encounter, loneliness, and my favourite, feminist rage." - Scroll
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6 February 2008
I Was A Teenage Bookworm
Today is a little better because Samit will be here soon for the launch of his new book. I am comforted.
I'm wondering whether I should launch on the drunken weekend, and how I am the BEST host EVER and how everyone who wants to drink in Bombay should just call me because I rule, but you know, seeing as I'm all modest and self-effacing I'm going to just hint at how awesome I am and let you fill in the rest. Instead I will talk about something I don't think I've mentioned on this blog before, my love for young adult literature. I think I have said before that I love Sweet Valley and Judy Blume and the BSC but I haven't actually gone into why and how and so on.
So, without further adieu, may I present to you my most favourite YA books in no particular order:
> Thunderwith by Libby Hathorn: Possibly one of the ONLY books that made me cry. I don't cry easily. Even Little Women didn't do it (and frankly Beth was a little annoying. What? She was! I don't like all these matyr types. I hated Cousin Helen in What Katy Did and Pollyanna, dude I wanted to slap her.) Anyway, so Thunderwith is this Australian book about this girl whose incredible, fiesty mother dies and so she has to go stay with her biological father and his new wife and kids. Because she's so lonely and because her stepmother is really horrible (not like child abuse types but generally cold and distant. I'm getting teary just writing about it. Jesus.) she 'adopts' this dog who keeps appearing and calls him Thunderwith. A dingo, I think. And when she has to face bullies at school and the Horrible Step at home, the dog helps. It's one of those coming-of-age books where there is a crisis point and then everything is resolved. Horrible Step even becomes Not-So-Horrible. I seriously loved this book. I think my most favourite bits were when she begns to become close to her younger sisters and brother. That made me go all awwwwwwww.
> Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume: I had a really hard time picking which of Judy's books to put here. Superfudge started me off on her, but Are You There God was the book of my preteen years, where I was trying to play catch up. It was, I think, the most age appropriate book I read that year. Especially since me and my friends at school were doing the same "have you got your period yet" competition that the kids in the book do. I don't know why we wanted it so much, but I suspect, looking back, that the book triggered it off. I had a copy of the book with a pink cover, I remember and all four girls sitting around chatting and by the end of the school year the cover was almost off.
Of course, you already know what this book is about but if you're one of the two people on the planet who hasn't read it, a recap: Margaret has moved from New York to a suburb (New Jersey, I think) where she quickly makes friends with three other girls who have a secret club called (wait for it) the Pre-Teen Sensations! In a very Judy-like way, one girl is not everything she seems, and the protaganist has to figure out stuff for herself before she can take a stand. (On a side note, I think the one book where friendships weren't THAT central in Judy Blume was Starring Sally J Freedman As Herself. I think Sally is one of my all-time favourite heroines. She was so SORTED, you know?). Anyway, Are You There God is the period book, just like It's Not The End Of The World is the divorce book, Then Again, Maybe I Won't is the wet dream book and Forever is the sex book and so on. What would our information be without Judy Blume? Much more scientific and a lot less fun, that's for sure. (My mother gave me the whole "the man plants the seed" schpiel along with something about my uterus lining falling out. It sounded gross. Hey, maybe that was the idea. Hmmmm, sneaky, Mom.)
> This Place Has No Atmosphere by Paula Danziger: Again, it's hard to pick which of Paula Danziger's books I liked the most, so I'm picking the one I re-read most often. It's set in the future, with the premise, I guess, that teenage girls are the same across the ages. So, Aurora is majorly bummed when her parents, like, have to move to the moon and she has to leave her cool neighbourhood (which has a mall people live in, it sounded awesome) and mood clothes (which change colour depending on what mood you're in) and move to a place with basically no atmosphere. Things get better though, coz she meets a cute boy (yay! I loved how these chicks always found cute guys, no matter where they were) and she acts in a play and discovers that life on the moon isn't so bad after all. I think my favourite bit about this book, apart from the descriptions of the world in the future was when she's worried that she's going to rust from not making out for so long and her boyfriend who is taking ESP classes tells her not to worry about the rusting. It's a sweet exchange.
> Julie Of The Wolves by Jean Craighead George: So, when I was young and my Abroad Relatives used to visit, they always got me these Newbery Award winning books which I devoured. (Okay, if anyone here has read Jacob Have I Loved was it not AWESOME?) Most of them were about young people overcoming difficulties in these exotic locations. Julie Of The Wolves is about this Eskimo girl, given away in child marriage to her father's partner's son and how she runs away. Only she gets stuck on the tundra with no civilisation whatsoever and then she spots this pack of wolves who she befriends and lives amongst. It's a poignant, sad story. I can still remember one line for the book where she finally stops walking on all fours and stands up and tells Amoraq, the pack leader, "I am me, your two-legged cub". It always made me want to get lost in an icy wasteland and meet wolves and watch them and share their food and so on. I find on Wikipediaing the book that it's been banned several times because of the attempted rape of the main character. I remember that scene, it's when her teenage husband wants to have sex with her because all his friends are teasing him about "having a wife and not mating with her." Oh, this book was awesome. I wonder where it is. On my bookshelf in Delhi, I think.
> I'm not putting all the classics in here, because, hey, they're classics, people will read them anyway. But, because you asked, my favourite young adult classics are: The Catcher In The Rye, Jane Eyre, Jack And Jill, What Katy Did Next and Anne Of Green Gables.
> And not quite YA, but I LOVED the Ramona Quimby books by Beverly Cleary. Spanning Ramona's life from the time she's about six to when she's nine, the books are an excellent picture of growing up in middle class America. Wait, that made it sound rather dull. They're about all sorts of things really--learning how to ride a bike and figuring that not all adults love you and pets and new babies and older sisters and parents who fight. These books are so so great. Do yourself a favour and find them.
> I'm trying very hard to remember what Indian authors wrote young adult literature when I was growing up. There was Paro Anand who wrote a set of short stories called Pepper The Capuchin Monkey. (Incidentally, I met her for an interview and carried along my copy of Pepper and she signed it for me and the ten year old inside me did a cartwheel.) There was RK Narayan, who I still love. (I had a craving for lime pickles each time I read Swami And Friends). I guess the Juneli At St. Avila's counts although I thought they were a badly written, derivative series even as a child. Hmmmmm, who else? This is terrible. I'll just write YA stuff myself.
I should probably go. This post is addictive and if I don't stop I'll be going on forever.