REVIEW: Bras, Boys and Blunders by Vidya Samson
“What’s a girl gotta do to get her first bra, her first kiss, her first love?
If you thought the Middle East was all about fatwas and burkhas, think again. Join the fun as Veena, a naive teen from India, bungles her way through adolescence on the island of Bahrain. Laugh out loud as she deals with the intricacies of stubborn bras, crazy parents, racist classmates, first love, and the No-No Club, an abstinence club that degenerates into the Yes-Yes Club.
If you’ve ever struggled with body image issues, ever wanted to be different from what you are, ever wanted a hot guy or girl you couldn’t have, or if you just want a good laugh, this novel is for you, whether you’re nine, ninety, or anywhere in between.”
Dear Ms. Samson,
After I read and enjoyed “Indian Maidens Bust Loose,” I knew I wanted to try more of your work. And luckily for me you already have another book out and ready to be read and reviewed. I may not read YA all the time, but occasionally I do enjoy seeing what’s out there. “Bras, Boys and Blunders” seemed like it would be a great merger of YA with MC.
You include lots of the elements of classic YA. The heroine is in school and has some best friends and some enemies. Not everything goes smoothly for her – in this case because she’s smart and Indian. She has to overcome her self doubts there and also deal with her family at home. There’s also the well beloved trope of parents who seem hopelessly out of touch with her and with issues she faces – though in reality, she’ll eventually learn that everyone was young once, faced their own issues and then have children who feel the same way. She crushes on someone, dithers around about how to attract him – or any boy – and then ultimately discovers things about him that open her eyes to another boy who up til then has been dismissed but who just might have always been her Teenaged Mr. Right. TMR is, of course, sort of her opposite and someone she initially dismisses because he’s a rule flouter and she’s strictly a by-the-book girl. She has to gather her confidence along the way – in Veena’s case by trying out for the drama class role of Juliet in the school rendition of “Romeo and Juliet.”
Lessons are learned and not just about English Lit, physics or drama class. Who is important, be true to yourself, trust your friends who have your back and that the boy you truly connect with will probably not be the one you initially imagine will be The One. It takes a while for Veena to realize all this and she doesn’t clue into her TMR until they begin having talks about things outside of school – about deep and meaningful things – and then she discovers she wants to talk with him and not just kiss him. He and his ideas and opinions mean something to her and hers to him.
Veena has to go through growing pains most teenaged girls do. How does she look to opposite sex, why doesn’t she have curves yet, her hair is a mess and how does she get a boy to notice her. I wasn’t sure about the whole mother’s awful dog bit but it does provide some amusing moments. Veena has problems with life outside her beloved text books and counts on her worldy-wise best friend Unita to clue her in about real life. Veena’s body has yet to catch up with her brain. She also has no idea of the way boys try to get the attention of a girl they’re interested in – by annoying her.
Okay – so far, so sorta usual for YA. How does this one differ? It’s in Bahrain. I thought I knew a little about the Kingdom but obviously not as much as I imagined I did. So it’s good that I read this and expanded my knowledge base – a lot. A Catholic school there? Where non-Catholics attend? I knew Bahrain is religiously liberal but had no idea it is to this degree. I assume it’s like here where non-religious affiliated students will go to religious schools for the education? Or other perceived advantages? It did take me aback that Muslims would attend a Christian school while living in a Muslim country. But it was interesting to discover the differences in the students and the hierarchy. At times it comes across as a sort of anti-Kumbaya of multiculturalism. MC gone bad. Racism carried out globally. It’s not pretty and I can only imagine all the varying shades of it piled on top of being a teenager. Bleurgh. Yet this ultimately serves as the way Veena first begins to see her TMR show his colors. Though perhaps the ending is a touch too sweet and saintly. It’s his “boom box” moment.
I enjoyed the little details such as disparity of wealth in Bahrain and the comparison to India, about the export of Indian produce, and how Indians view chronic diseases as potentially lowering a person’s value on the marriage mart. Plus there’s the humor I liked so well in “Indian Maidens.” While the YA aspect of the novel isn’t so terribly different from lots of other books in this genre, the setting places it apart and makes it worth the effort to seek out. B-
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