Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Review - Pashmina

by Nidhi Chanani
Date: 2017
Publisher: First Second
Reading level: YA
Book type: graphic novel
Pages: 182
Format: e-book
Source: library

Priyanka Das has so many unanswered questions: Why did her mother abandon her home in India years ago? What was it like there? And most importantly, who is her father, and why did her mom leave him behind? But Pri’s mom avoids these questions―the topic of India is permanently closed.

For Pri, her mother's homeland can only exist in her imagination. That is, until she find a mysterious pashmina tucked away in a forgotten suitcase. When she wraps herself in it, she is transported to a place more vivid and colorful than any guidebook or Bollywood film. But is this the real India? And what is that shadow lurking in the background? To learn the truth, Pri must travel farther than she’s ever dared and find the family she never knew.

In this heartwarming graphic novel debut, Nidhi Chanani weaves a tale about the hardship and self-discovery that is born from juggling two cultures and two worlds.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is a weird little book. I don't mind elements of magic in contemporary stories, but this book has a few problems that prevented me from enjoying it more.

The main issue I had was that I'm not sure who the audience is. The main character is probably around 16 (she's learning to drive, and it's mentioned that her mother was her age when she got pregnant), and there are some definite heavier issues dealt with in the story (family drama, a sick baby, abandonment, poverty). However, the pashmina element of the story was ridiculous and juvenile.

So Priyanka finds a pashmina (basically an embroidered scarf) in her mother's things. When she puts it on, she's transported in her mind to India (these sections were done in full colour, while the main narrative was black and white; I liked the contrast). I don't have a problem with this, except for the fact that she's guided around this fictional India by a talking elephant and peacock. That just felt really juvenile, and after finishing, I'm still not sure what the point of those characters was. They made me feel like I'd stepped sideways into a middle-grade title every time the switch happened. And then we discover that the pashmina itself is a lying, manipulative piece of cloth, showing the wearer an idealized version of their future, not necessarily the truth. While it's a nice notion to have the pashmina show women their potential, I think it would've been even better if it had been realistic; as it was, the accessory came across as an overselling manipulator. (I never thought I'd have to say something like that about a scarf!)

The Indian culture that was included (the fashion, food, words, and family relationships) was all done fairly well. I didn't really like Priyanka as a character, but that was probably because I had a hard time connecting with her. I'm not sure she was developed that well. A big part of the story was--or should have been--her drawing her comic books, but it wasn't really emphasized as much as it could've been (especially in the beginning) if it was that big a part of her life. Where it was included, I wasn't impressed. At one point, her teacher suggests she enter a contest. She says no. So he enters for her! I was appalled. If she said no, she might've had a very good reason; entering her comic without consent just seemed a bit creepy... especially considering the crush Priyanka had on said teacher.

Overall, it wasn't the worst graphic novel I've read, but it wasn't the best, either. The cultural elements are good, but they're not quite enough to carry the story, and the juvenile talking animals and magical manipulative pashmina rubbed me the wrong way.

Plot: 3/5
Characters: 2/5
Pace: 2/5
Writing & Editing: 3/5
Illustration: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall Rating: 2.5 out of 5 ladybugs

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