Title: The Whole Story of Half a Girl
Author: Veera Hiranandani
Release Date: January 10, 2012
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Genre: Middle Grade, Cultural Fiction (South Asian)
Rating: 4 out of 5
Sonia Nadhamuni’s life is changing drastically as she enters the sixth grade. Her father has lost his job and sunk into a depression, and her mother is working harder than ever to provide for her family. Sonia no longer can attend the prestigious private school she has loved her whole life. She is sent to a public school, leaving behind her friends and everything she knows, and she must find her place in this unfamiliar world.
In The Whole Story of Half a Girl, we are introduced to Sonia Nadhamuni, a girl who this she is a half, rather than a whole. With an Indian father and a Jewish mother, Sonia feels like she is neither Indian, nor Jewish. She struggles to find some sort of identity while also trying to fit in at her new school. She wants to stay true to herself, but friends are also important to Sonia. But how does she know whether she’s betraying who she is in order to fit in if Sonia doesn’t really know herself in the first place? Veera Hiranandani portrays a confused and lost girl on the verge of adolescence, someone desperately seeking some sort of identity in the confused world she finds herself in.
Sonia is an endearing character, a well-written and fully realized young woman. Hiranandani did an admirable job fleshing her out; she is realistically flawed. While Sonia doesn’t always make the right choices, the reader can always understand why and sympathize with what she’s experiencing. Her troubles at home also contribute to Sonia’s confusion; she doesn’t know how to handle what is going on around her.
The Whole Story of Half a Girl is funny, engaging, and has a memorable protagonist in Sonia. The answers to her problems never come to her easily and are often realistically messy. It’s gratifying to watch Sonia grow up over the course of the book and really see her find an identity, and even moreso for her to realize that it’s okay to be half. Being half-Jewish and half-Indian might be confusing, but it’s something to embrace, and Hiranandani portrays that struggle for identity beautifully in her debut novel.