Monday, 21 May 2018

REVIEW: The Girl in the Broken Mirror by Savita Kalhan

Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Troika Books
Release Date: March 28th 2018
Topics: Sexual Abuse, Culture
Buy The Book: Book Depository 

 Jay's creative writing exercise is to write a fairy tale, to end with 'they lived happily ever after'. But the way her life is panning out she's not sure it will ever reach that stage. A powerful moving gripping story which explores themes of family, loyalty and culture clash but is ultimately about hope and understanding.

WARNING: Due to the nature of the story, this review mentions the main character being a victim of rape. Please feel free to skip out on this review if you need to.

It's impossible to go into this story expecting a light read. It deals with some seriously tough subjects, and it doesn't shy away from the details. We're shown from the very first chapter that this is going to be a difficult journey, but it's such an important one.

The Girl in the Broken Mirror deals with the rape of teenager Jay after she and her mother, Neela, are left with no choice but to move in with relatives who follow a much more strict Indian lifestyle than what Jay is used to. Left with no other choice, Jay has to change the way she acts when she's under her aunt's roof.

Jay is a perfect example of how an ordinary girl with an ordinary life can be thrown into such extreme circumstances. Her life is so seemingly normal until suddenly, it isn't. There was nothing she and her mother could have done to change their circumstances, and I understand why her mother made the decision to live with family members. She thought she was doing what was best for her daughter and had no way of knowing what the outcome would be. Like a lot of horrible things in life, it progressed too quickly and silently to be stopped by those around it.

The relationship between Jay and her mother was a complex one that was tested many times over the course of the story. There was a chapter towards the end in which we got a bit more insight from Neela's point of view, and it was important that we got to see her thought process leading up to her finding out about the attack.

Although Sita was a character who only appeared in the final quarter of the book, she was one of my favourites. Her character was necessary for reminding us of the goodness we can find in the people around us. Something we needed after the harsh occurrences earlier in the story.

The thing that really stuck out to me about this book was how it covered so much of the story. We were shown the build up to the attack, as well as the aftermath. The YA books I've read in the past that contained the rape of a main character tend not to show as much of the aftermath as I'd like to see. I love it when a story shows that there is a life after horrible attacks like this one, that there is hope for those people to take control of their situation again. Whilst some of the scenes with Jay after the attack were heartbreaking and difficult to read, I love that this book showed us that she had a new chapter in her life beyond the final pages.

This is such a powerful story and an example of some of the horrible situations young women can actually find themselves in. At the start of the book, Jay would never have been able to imagine the attack she was about to be faced with, and yet it happened regardless. It was also an important look into culture and a male orientated world. I'm so grateful to Savita for writing this story because it very much needed to be told.

Royal Rating:

Monday, 14 May 2018

BLOG TOUR: Q&A with Savita Kalhan, author of The Girl in the Broken Mirror

Hello, fellow bookworms! Today I'm thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for The Girl in the Broken Mirror with a Q&A from the writer herself, Savita Kalhan!

Hi Katie, thank you so much for inviting me here on your blog today! It’s so exciting having The Girl in the Broken Mirror out in the world – and then taking it on a blog tour with amazing bloggers like you!

Hi, Savita! Can you tell us a little bit about your novel, The Girl in the Broken Mirror?
The Girl in the Broken Mirror is about a Jay, 15 year old British Asian girl, who goes from riches to rags, and from a liberal home to a super-strict traditional Indian home where she struggles to fit in. Then she is brutally assaulted by a relative and her life implodes. It’s a story of love and loss, of a girl and her mother, of guilt, of betrayal, but ultimately it’s a story of hope and where help can be found even in the darkest moments of life.

Jay is such an interesting character who faces a lot of tough situations, what was it that inspired you to write her story?
In many ways, I was like Jay. Without going into details, I faced a few of the tough situations in my life that Jay faces in the book. This was a story that I had never read when I was growing up. I didn’t even know of any British Asian writers, and kids like me never saw ourselves in books. I didn’t know that the struggle I was going through was not unique to me – and I’m not just talking about the culture clash, which is a big enough subject on its own.

There is also that issue of male patriarchy, which exists in many communities, where boys and men are considered to be better than girls and women. Growing up thinking in that way, whether you are a boy or a girl, is not the way forward.

All of these reasons made me want to write Jay’s story for YA readers.

The Girl in the Broken Mirror deals with some very serious topics, what sort of research did you do when preparing to write the story?
Some books require lots of research. This book required very little. I had the background for almost all the story. With the #metoo and #timesup movement, it’s so easy, and horrifying, to find the rape and sexual assault stats. It was really important to me to add the names of all the charities and help lines who can help anyone facing the things that Jay goes through. I don’t want girls going through difficult situations to think they are alone – and it doesn’t matter which community they come from, I’m talking about ALL girls.

Why do think Jay's story needed to be told?
It’s a story that hasn’t been told before. In fact there are very few YA stories that deal with the rape or sexual assault. Anne Cassidy’s No Virgin and Louise O’Neill’s Asking For It are pretty much the only two in UKYA. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson was the first book I read about rape – it’s an incredibly moving book and I highly recommend it. As for a story with a young British Asian girl as the protagonist, there were none.


What was the most difficult part of the writing process for you, and what was the most rewarding?
The Girl in the Broken Mirror was probably the hardest book I’ve ever written. To write about the themes that are in the book without being graphic, without being sensationalist or insincere, or overly sentimental, was hard. Finding the right title of the story was difficult too – there were several working titles before I found the right one for the book.

The most rewarding part of the writing process was the final edit and the feedback – that was SO incredibly rewarding!

Finally, what do you hope readers will take away from your story?
I hope it helps readers understand the struggle some teens face living with two cultures – one at home and the other outside.

The culture clash struggle is not just confined to Asian kids growing up in two cultures – it’s about all teens facing clashes of conflicting views, ideas, opinions with a different generation. Understanding what it is can help in some way in dealing with it.

I would like boys to read the book too as it’s so important for them to know the boundaries, recognise the consequences, the repercussions and the terrible pain of the trauma someone like Jay goes through.

Ultimately, I want readers to take hope with them at the end of the story. There is always hope.

Thanks so much for having me here, Katie! If your readers want to know anything more about me or The Girl in the Broken Mirror, here’s my website www.savitakalhan.com, or I’m always happy to chat on Twitter @savitakalhan

A huge thank you to the lovely Savita for stopping by! My review of this powerful story will be posted very soon. Be sure to check out the rest of the wonderful blogs taking part in the tour:

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