School Library Journal
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Gr 9 Up-In Sri Lanka in 1980, 14-year-old Amrith is forced to confront his feelings about his birth family when Niresh, a cousin from Canada, visits. He falls in love with the boy, jealously refusing to share him with his adoptive sisters, in spite of their obvious interest. Amrith is a gentle, innocent boy from an anglicized and privileged world of private school, country club, and numerous servants, so readers will be surprised at the intensity evoked by his first sexual feelings. Mirroring the rage of Othello, the play his school is producing, he almost causes a tragedy before coming to terms with his anger at his family and his own sense of difference. The arc of this sensitive coming-of-age story moves slowly but inexorably to its breaking point, lingering over details of Sri Lankan life. Thunderous monsoon storms set the mood and detailed descriptions of the landscape, architecture, and food provide the backdrop. The author's affection for the country of his childhood is evident in this sympathetic and insightful look at first love.-Kathleen Isaacs, Towson University, MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Gr. 8-11. As lush and languid as its Sri Lanka setting, this novel tells the story of 13-year-old Amrith, whose complicated life becomes even more so with the appearance of his Canadian cousin, Niresh. Amrith lives with his adoring godmother and her supportive family in 1980 Colombo. But although he lives in luxury, he is poverty-stricken when it comes to knowing his own family. There is mystery surrounding the death of his beloved mother and alcoholic father, and because of the circumstances of his parents' marriage, his extended family shuns him. So when Niresh turns up with his father, who has come to sell off family property, Amrith is anxious to make a connection. Eventually, he realizes his feelings for Niresh go beyond friendship, which finally makes him aware of his sexual identity. This is much closer stylistically to European novels such as Per Nilsson's You & You & You 0 and Andreas Steinhofel's Center of the Universe0 (both 2005) 0 than to our own plot-driven YA novels, with situations arising organically from the characters. What captures readers is the way the story rolls in waves, mimicking how Amrith looks at himself, then looks away. The luxuriant language, with details of architecture and verdant gardens, doesn't call attention to itself, but refreshes like a breeze. Selvadurai, who wrote so gracefully for adults in Cinnamon Gardens 0 (1998 )0 , now does the same for teens. --Ilene Cooper Copyright 2005 Booklist