Title: Nikhil Out Loud
Author: Maulik Pancholy
Read by: Maulik Pancholy
What's it about?
Nikhil has the dream job! He's the voice of Raj Ready, an award winning cartoon character and he's got his best friend. And then everything changes.
Nikhil finds himself moving from L.A to Ohio with his mom, to be with his grandparents he hardly knows, to help out . His grandfather is sick but his mom doesn't get along with her father and he has to start at a new school, where he's recognized on the first day as the infamous Raj Ready and thrust into auditioning for the school musical even though he can't sing and struggles with stage fright. And in case all that isn't enough, he finds himself in the throws of puberty, an experience difficult for many but could cost him his job and the homophonic community in his new town has decided that he should just go back to L.A and not be a role model for his peers when they find out he's gay.
It's a school year filled with emotion, friendship, fears and sadness for Nikhil, and somehow, he's got to make it through.
Favorite Character: Nikhil's my favorite (I know! I didn't go for the old smart guy!). I found myself often forgetting how old the characters were. But Nikhil was so mature and strong as he struggled with so many difficult facets of life. It was like he was constantly trying to juggle two worlds, his work world and his everyday world, his L.A world and his Ohio world, his child's world and his teen world. And he did so beautifully.
Least Favorite Character: I can't think of her name and she wasn't a big character, but the woman who started the protest about Nikhil's role at the school. She pushed so many buttons for me (though she did start conversations between my son and I) but I just wanted to smack her and then, my stomach literally rolled when the group chanted something along the lines of "Send the gay back to L.A". I think that's the moment that she became unredeemable to me.
Favorite Part: I'm going to do that thing again when I get vague in order to avoid spoilers but, I think if you know, you know when it comes to what I'm going to say. My favorite part was the "big night" as I'm calling it. I literally cried. Now, to be fair, I was having a hard day, but I'm 98% sure the tears were caused by the book and not my real life battles with my six year old.
Least Favorite Part: The over heard conversation. Again with the vague, I know, but that was a hard moment. It was a infuriating conversation (that I know was important to the overall telling of the story and everything but...) and it literally put Nikhil's grandfather in the running for least favorite character.
There were a few things that I found unexpected but amazing about this book and Nikhil in it. One of the first things is money. Nikhil is a voice actor on a very popular show. I'm not well verse in the average wage of a voice actor but I assume they make some money. Nikhil's mother has a job that would pay the bills, but nothing about their lifestyle suggests that they have a lot of money or fame. Nikhil is even surprised when he has to fly for work and they put him in first class! Never once does he talk about money, flaunt it or even mention that he has his own money. For him, being Raj Ready and the draw of it has nothing to do with the money or fame, it had everything to do with his love of cartoons and ;how excited he was at the prospect of an Indian character being the main character in a show without being drowned in stereotypes. And I LOVE this for him!
I also really loved how Nikhil never used his station as Raj Ready to elevate himself. He didn't walk into his new school expecting to be recognized or even mentioning he had a job and what it was. He wanted to fly under the radar. He wanted to be a normal kid who just happened to have won an award for being the voice of and awesome cartoon character. Him being a voice actor was a small part of who he he was and, in many ways, who identified as and, so often in stories like this, it's the other way around.
Nikhil did deal with some pretty heavy stuff, though. He had to deal with death (which I think, in some ways, was glossed over a little) in a scene that reminded more then I expected of my grandmother's passing. He had to face the reality that sometimes you're rejected for things that are beyond your control. He had to face a group of unknown people using him as the poster child turned target for something they didn't understand without even bothering to get to know him. None of these things are easy even for adults but they were done here well and, for the most part, believably.
My "big" complaint is that one of the threads of story wasn't wrapped up nice and neat as I expected. Now, I wasn't upset that it didn't end the way I expected, in fact I thought the way it did end was awesome and I totally support it except for it kind of leads me wanting more. How does it all workout? I want to see it! I want to know if my thoughts and guesses are right!
Overall, it was better then I expected. It made me feel the things and cry some tears. There weren't many characters that I didn't like, but I was not above screaming at my phone when someone made me mad (Yes. I'm that audiobook listener). I'm so glad that I got to read this story and hope to see more about Nikhil in the future (so, Mr. Poncholy, get writing!). And, of course, I always love it when the author reads the audiobook to me, so that didn't hurt, either.
I give this book a
10 sound booths
But that's just what I thought. What did you think? Did I leave out something big? Did you disagree with me? Let us know in the comments!