My Book of 2017 Lit for Life

'Unbroken' by Nandhika Nambi is Paro Anand’s best book of 2017

Unbroken, by Nandhika Nambi caught me by the throat, not just my eye, for its cover. A plywood brown and squares of signage that promise an intriguing story inside. I knew nothing about the author. This is a first book by a young ‘half doctor’, as she describes herself. When I was asked to pick my book of 2017, this is the first one that sprang to my mind.

You start reading and you get the whiny voice of a maladjusted teen who hates everyone, a too-brilliant brother, a too-pretty mother, a typical father who seems to put up with a lot of shit from the said whiny daughter.

There are little hints thrown in: “I wheeled my chair to my desk”, “I hoisted myself on to my bed on my arms”. But you read through those, because you assume these are just more complaints from a very ornery kid who seems to whinge about every thing.

And that’s when you discover that she is a kid in a wheelchair, “trapped in a prison with nowhere to escape.”

When I was growing up, there were very few characters with disabilities in books. And if they were, they were miraculously healed or tragically died. At least, that is how I remember it. And they almost always had a shining halo of martyrdom above their poor, dear heads.

Like any teenager

Here, instead, is a gritty, real-life teen who is embarrassed and resentful and impatient and all things that any self-respecting teen should be. The only difference is her wheelchair world.

The book does not set out to inspire or help. It is a brutally honest look at what it is to be a teen in an imperfect body. It will inspire those girls (and boys) out there who whine about every zit and oily hair, to relook at their complaints and find a way to say, ‘okay, my life is not that bad.’

I love the author for not being all weeping Mary about her story and characters. The brother and parents are as real as the people sitting next to you in a movie hall, or shopping in the mall with you.

It’s real, it’s gritty, it’s honest.

Just to give you a tiny taste what’s within the beautiful covers, I give you the blurb:

“So okay I’m a monster. But look what I have to deal with — my brother is a frightened little freak, my father is selfish and ill-tempered, my mother is an ignorant doormat and my friends are just plain irritating. And I’m in a prison surrounded by them all, with nowhere to escape.

People insist on seeing the worst in me. So I show them the worst.

But one day, something happens… and suddenly I see what these relationships and people (however annoying) mean to me. I’ve been a monster for such a long time now. I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to be human. What if it’s too late?”

Now if that doesn’t intrigue and entice you, you’d better get your head and heart examined.

The author is a Bal Sahitya Puraskar winner who writes books for children, young adults and adults.


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Printable version | Jul 30, 2021 5:52:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/lit-for-life/so-okay-im-a-monster-unbrokenby-nandhika-nambi-is-paro-anands-best-book-of-2017/article22373542.ece

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