S. J. Laidlaw
Tundra, 2016 (2016)
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
. J. Laidlaw has won awards for her previous YA novels,
An Infidel in Paradise
The Voice Inside My Head
. Her latest novel,
, is sure to win one as well. It's set mainly in the red light district of Mumbai, India, where eleven-year-old Noor has been raised in a brothel.
t's a harsh life, but Noor's Ma seeks something better for her daughter and sends Noor to a fee-paying school (teachers are often absent at the government school), keeping her origins hidden. Noor makes friends and excels in her studies, though she lies about her background.
hy fifteen-year-old Grace, whose father is a wealthy bank CEO, attends the Mumbai International School, where she feels isolated since the departure of her older brother to university and her best friend to Singapore. She tries to befriend the in crowd, led by queen bee Madison, but is rejected.
isaster strikes Grace after a series of texts from a secret admirer lures her into sending a topless photo to this new
. The image goes viral and Grace is shamed, and in trouble with her parents and school authorities. The latter insist that she do community outreach in expiation, which is of course where she meets Noor.
s each girl heads down her own slippery slope, there is help at hand, not only from each other, but from a surprising new friend at Grace's school. And that help is soon very badly needed.
is a brilliant, engrossing read, and don't miss the dedication: '
How can I dedicate a book to girls who may never have the freedom, education or leisure to read it? How can I not?
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