Author: Padma Venkatraman
Age group: Young Adult(teenage)/Adult novel
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (May 1, 2008)
Not often do you get to read a novel set in historical, pre-independence India with a story so wonderful and riveting. Padma Venkatraman undoubtedly brings a wonderful and fresh voice to the world of young adult and adult English literature with her debut novel, Climbing The Stairs.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and found the story very touching. The book appeals to both young adults and adults alike. For both the groups, the story's backdrop can offer interesting insights into India's political and social fabric during World War II and the independence struggle.
Please allow me to offer a little glimpse of the story's plot and the characters Hopefully, I am not giving away too much so you can go and find out for yourself how wonderful the book is.
Vidya and Kitta cruise their young adult/teenage years with their everyday lives filled with typical family and school related happenings when all of a sudden a bad event in the family forces them out of their homes into their uncle's home. In their new home, the two deal with clashes in values and judgements with members of the extended family. Kitta makes some important decisions for himself in line with his own ideals. And when it's Vidya's turn, the story's key focal point touches upon her personal struggles, and family and social pressures. Eventually, it boils down to how she makes some very important decisions for herself filled with determination, courage and hope.
A fascinating plot, and such interesting characterizations and text that kept me glued to the book cover to cover. With Padma's writing so lucid and well-structured, the book is a real treat and offers a multi-faceted experience. And for the teenage group, there are definitely lots of inspirations to draw from based on an interesting plot, and fascinating characters.
I should also mention that it was truly a pleasure to read the characterizations of both Kitta and Vidya. I would be missing the point if I didn't recoginize the fact they were both equally strong-willed and important characters.
Final Word: There are so many untold stories during World War II - societies and people in India already dealing with their own national political and social struggles. Thanks to Padma we got to hear one such story of young Vidya and Kitta whose personal challenges, and dreams many will find close to their hearts – a historical story so wonderfully told that it in fact is truly timeless in its appeal. Once again, many thanks to Padma Venkatraman for her fabulous new book, Climbing The Stairs.
Lastly, I think the book will be a neat pick for teenage book clubs, or for any bookclub reading for that matter. And if you are like me that enjoys reading juvenile/young adult fiction in order to compensate for those wasted teenage/high school years of limited non-academic reading... reading that came to a screeching halt (after Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys) during middle school, and later nothing-but-flirty-romance novels during college, I have to confess after a decade of being out of teenage, Ok...I will give it away - after 14 years of post-teen life, I am shamelessly going for young adult fiction with a vengeance...
I am not done yet - here's a little piece of advice for moms with pre-teens and teens - if you really want your children to read eclectically, and if you are involved in picking what they read, books such as these should be on top of your list! Books are indeed a great way to connect with our children and the world around us, isnt it?