The Samosa Rebellion by Shanthi Sekaran, 341 pages, Can be read in a about 8 hours depending on your speed, Middle Grade
A quote that I really appreciated: “I’m not used to knowing things. I never knew knowledge could be so heavy.” Muki, p. 32
Y’all. This book. I mean. Wow. This book is a must read. I absolutely loved it. It’s a page turner that you will not want to put down.
This was the final book in my “not intending to pick up any more books but couldn’t help myself” library trip. When I saw the title, I thought, “This looks like a fun read!” The synopsis on the inside flap sounded more serious, but still interesting. I should have paid more attention to the inside flap. This is a fantastic book, but I’m not sure “fun” is the right word to describe it. The feelings I had most while reading it were anxiety, dread, and an overwhelming urge to hug the main character—Muki—every other page. While I knew the book would end on happy note—because, really, how could a book like this not—it was not an easy road getting there.
As the book opens, we meet Muki, a 12-year-old child of Indian immigrants on the island of Mariposa, as he waits with his parents on the arrival of his grandmother (Patti), who is coming to live with them. Soon after, the president of Mariposa announces a new initiative that leads to separation and persecution of newer arrivals to the island (called Moths) as a way of addressing the fears and economic anxieties of those who have longer ties to Mariposa (called the Butterflies). As the book title implies, a rebellion is brewing—one that Muki and his friends not only join, but accidentally play a key role in.
If the themes of the plot sound familiar, they should. In many ways, the plot is a realization of the very real fears I and many others had about what could have happened under the prior administration. Shanthi brilliantly captures the rising tensions between the two groups, the confusion among the “Moths” about what was happening and why, and the impact the president’s policies can have on people, including how that impact varies by class.
But, she also captures what I hope would be the reaction to such policies and attitudes. There are many moments where people voice their concerns or disapproval. My favorite conversations, however, were the scenes where Muki ends up in the plotting of the resistance movement. These moments showed the love those in the resistance have for each other and their adopted countries, but also showed how adults and children can work together in such heavy times, even if the adults are reluctant at first to do so. Even the moments where Muki and his friends discuss the resistance among themselves highlight just how smart, brave, and “in the know” children can be.
While the plot is heavy, it is not without humor. He name of some of the adults—particularly Mr. Pinto, Ms. Pistachio, Bambi, and Doggy—cracked me up. I’m also pretty sure there was a reference to Friends, the TV show. It comes in the middle of a particularly sad scene, but for readers of a certain age, it brough in a much needed bright spot.
Shanthi’s writing and storytelling are what really make this book what it is. When I say you won’t be able to put it down, I mean it. The night I started the book, I intended to only read for about an hour before bed. Before I knew it, it was midnight, and I was halfway through. I finished it the next day because I just had to know what would happen. The Samosa Rebellion is so good that I plan on buying a copy of it (along with Veera Hiranandani’s How to Find What You’re Not Looking For) for my own bookshelf.