Saturday, August 27, 2022

Karma Khullar's Mustache, by Kristi Wientge

Karma and her BFF Sara are about to enter middle school this year.  There are are a great deal of changes taking place and so much of it seems to mean change for the worse.  Karma sees her relationship with Sara growing distant as their interests are diverge and Sara has grown closer with mean new girl who moved in during the summer.  Karma's father has lost his job and spends the days at home.  Her Mom is working extra hours to make up for the loss of income.  Her older brother is having trouble at school.  Worse of all though is the unwelcome arrival of visible facial hair above her lip.  While she tries to figure out what to do about, her initial hope that it would go unnoticed is quickly dispatched when she becomes the target of bullying.

While traipsing over very familiar middle grade topics (changing friendships, bullying, family conflicts, and puberty), Karma's mixed racial (half-Punjabi, half-white) background adds an interesting twist to the story.  Her interest in her heritage and her love of her father's ethnic cooking add dimension to her character.  Moreover, Karma herself has a relatable mixture of kind-heartedness and ego-driven anxiety that feels true to her age (i.e., a mix of wanting to be pleasing  and to be important enough to fix her family's problems while not adding any of her own).  As is so often the case, an early decision to seek adult input would have solved many of Karma's problems, but there is an emotional payoff in watching her attempt to fix the things that she can on her own.  A satisfactory combination of resolved and unresolved issues at the end felt realistic.

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