Title: Karma for Beginners
Author: Jessica Blank
Release Date: August 18, 2009
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Fourteen-year-old Tessa has never had a normal life. Her mother is a “free spirit” – they never stick around one place for very long. One day, Tessa’s mom tells her that they’re moving again – only this time, it’s to a Hindu ashram for an “extended retreat.”
Tessa can’t believe how selfish her mother is to drag her to an ashram without even consulting her. But Tessa decides to try and make the best of a bad situation when she meets Colin, a twenty-year-old boy who doesn’t live on the ashram, but fixes their vehicles. Through Colin, Jessica learns more about herself and her place in the world.
Karma for Beginners is an interesting book about an abandoned young girl. Though Jessica’s mother is in her life. she is basically on her own. Often, Tessa is the one who actually acts like the adult in the family. It’s unbelievable how selfish Tessa’s mother is, though sadly, she is portrayed realistically. At the same time though, the truth emerges about how sad and alone Tessa’s mom actually is.
Tessa’s mom’s attitude towards Tessa’s father is also frustrating. He abandoned them when Tessa was young, but Tessa still has a yearning to know her father. Instead of trying to understand this, Tessa’s mom is standoffish and difficult every time Tessa shows any interest in her father. It really underlines how self-centered Tessa’s mom really is – though she might be trying to protect Tessa, she doesn’t even try to understand why Tessa feels the need to know her father.
The age difference between Colin and Tessa is a little strange. It’s handled well in the book, but it’s just awkward when thinking about it objectively. Though six years isn’t much when you’re in your twenties or thirties, the difference between fourteen and twenty is huge. Colin is never portrayed badly, but it still didn’t sit well with me.
The book also changes pace quite a bit about 3/4 of the way through. I don’t want to spoil what happens, but it takes a turn for the worse and I had trouble staying interested in it. Additionally, the ending comes about a little too quickly and everything is too neatly wrapped up, with lessons in place. Still, Karma for Beginners is an interesting read, and the setting of the ashram is a nice touch, as it allows people to learn a little while they are reading.