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by Cathy Ostlere


School Library Journal:

/* Starred Review */ Gr 8 Up — This epic tale unfolds through the pages of alternating diaries from October 28th through December 16th, 1984. Yet countless layers peel off with the turn of each page, leading readers deeper into the rich and sometimes tortured history beneath the tale’s present. Fifteen-year-old Maya, half Hindu/half Sikh, has lived her entire life in rural Canada. Her family’s religion and ethnicity set them apart from their community, but also from one another. Maya’s name itself signifies the tension between her parents, lovers who forsook their families for each other, but who have lived in different states of mourning and regret since. Her given name is Jiva or “life,” yet her mother blasphemously calls her Maya or “illusion,” an insult to her Sikh father. Thus, when life and loss lead Maya and Bapu back to India at the time of Indira Gandhi’s assassination, they are plunged deep into a nation in bloody turmoil. Maya’s sense of otherness escalates dramatically as she is forced to consider it on a personal and near-universal scale. The middle diary belongs to that of Sandeep, with whom Maya experiences love, tragedy, ancestry, and loyalty at an intimate (yet physically innocent) level. The novel’s pace and tension will compel readers to read at a gallop, but then stop again and again to turn a finely crafted phrase, whether to appreciate the richness of the language and imagery or to reconsider the layers beneath a thought. This is a book in which readers will consider the roots and realities of destiny and chance. Karma is a spectacular, sophisticated tale that will stick with readers long after they’re done considering its last lines.—Jill Heritage Maza, Greenwich High School, CT –Jill Heritage Maza (Reviewed March 1, 2011) (School Library Journal, vol 57, issue 3, p167)


  • Booklist Editors’ Choice – Books for Youth – Older Readers Category: 2011
  • YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults: 2012


10th Grade, 11th Grade, 12th Grade, 8th Grade, 9th Grade, Cultural Differences, Family, Friendship, Identity, Teen