Artichoke Hearts by Sita Brahmachari
Paperback, 321 pages
Published 22nd August 2011 by Macmillan Children's Books
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Twelve-year-old Mira comes from a chaotic, artistic and outspoken family where it’s not always easy to be heard. As her beloved Nana Josie's health declines, Mira begins to discover the secrets of those around her, and also starts to keep some of her own. She is drawn to mysterious Jidé, a boy who is clearly hiding a troubled past and has grown hardened layers - like those of an artichoke - around his heart. As Mira is experiencing grief for the first time, she is also discovering the wondrous and often mystical world around her.
Artichoke Hearts is a book that I had been meaning to get around to reading since I heard about it (which was quite a long time ago!). To be honest, at first look I wasn't expecting all that much - the cover seemed a little 'young' and the blurb just sounded average. However, once I saw the amount of positive attention that the book was receiving, I really wanted to check it out. This book was still much better than expected!
This story is not only about our protagonist, 12 year old Mira, but also about everyone around her. Though I would say that this is probably aimed towards teenagers or the younger group of YA readers, it actually deals with a huge amount of issues There are a lot of typical teenage worries explored in this book, in a very connectable way - younger teens may be able to relate with some of Mira's problems, where as the slightly older readers will probably look back with some sort of memory of what it was like to be a Mira's age. Brahmachari has been very successful with her portrayal of a twelve year old girl and it was great to read about an Indian/Jewish character, someone with a cultural history, without that being the main subject of the book. Whoever you are and wherever you live, I think that a lot of people will be able to connect with her. Our protagonist does seem like a real, tangible person, her thoughts and feelings are very realistic. Alongside these usual teen worries, the author also included some more serious problems - such as grief and the loss of loved ones, subjects that are really hard hitting.
We do go on a 'journey' with Mira as she experiences new feelings and goes through a major life event, losing one of the most important people to her, her Nana Josie. We're introduced to a lot of different characters in this book and all of them seem authentic and likeable. I became truly immersed in Mira's world and found myself caring for everyone through their troubles, wishing I could give them a hug! I honestly felt as though I could read a separate book for each character - they all had such substance and history, especially the fantastically intriguing Nana Josie who we get to learn so much about.
I wasn't expecting this to be such a coming of age novel, but I'm so glad that it was - I was very impressed and will certainly be reading more by the very talented Brahmachari in the future. This is one of the best 'younger' young adult books that I have read and would certainly recommend it to any teenager.