Nikhil Out Loud by Maulik Pancholy, Can be read in a few hours depending on your speed, Middle Grade
(Catching up on reviews, starting with this read from January! Now that Harper Collins Union finally has a contract, I can post this!)
One of the reasons I read young adult and middle grade books is because there are now so many books fantastic books by South Asian authors that I wish I had as a kid. Nikhil Out Loud is a great edition to that list of books.
Nikhil’s life is great. He’s got a job that he loves (a child voice actor! And a really popular one!). A great group of friends. And mom who supports his dreams. Or at least, everything was great until his mom announces they are moving to Ohio to move in with his grandparents that he barely knows.
And then, surprise! He starts to go through puberty, which impacts his voice—the key to his career! And did I mention that because he’s an actor he gets pressured to try out for the school musical even though he hates being on stage? And if that wasn’t enough! Some parents start to protest the play after finding out that Nikhil is gay.
This kid is dealing with A LOT.
And yet, as a reader, the plot never feels convoluted or rushed. Pancholy does a great job tying all the issues together. And, thanks to Pancholy’s background, we get a plot that is truly unique. Even with shows like Mira, Royal Detective it never occurred to me that South Asian kids could be voice actors and this book does a great job of bringing that option to life. We get some great behind the scenes moments of the actual recording process, Nikhil’s process for becoming the character, and the pressures the being such a big star at a young age.
At its core, Nikhil Out Loud is about finding one’s voice (sometimes literally) and finding one’s people. It is a book that is full of a lot of angst, but also a lot of heart.
I’m really glad Pancholy is showing the world the breath of his skills and I’m really glad books like this exist so young gay South Asian kids can imagine a whole world of possibilities for themselves.
If you’re looking for a sweet story about finding your voice and building solidarity, I highly recommend reading this one.