As part of the South Asian author challenge hosted by S. Krishna’s Books, and to feed my hunger for young adult novels, I read Gifted by Nikita Lalwani. On a foray into a bookstore the cover art caught my eye, and I requested it from my library. Meanwhile, I had come across several reviews raving about the book.
Gifted is a coming-of-age story about 14-year-old Rumi Vashey, set in Wales. Rumi has an uncanny ability with mathematics, and her father, seeing her as a prodigy, gives her a rigorous study schedule to prepare for possible early entry to Oxford. Lalwani does a good job of describing the layers of awkwardness and confusion that Rumi endures as she becomes more and more withdrawn from her school peers and increasingly worn out from an exhausting regimen. The details veer from predictable (best friend is a fellow chess club member) to the surprising (Rumi develops an addiction to cumin seeds).
While many scenes were well-crafted, and descriptions of inner life and outer surroundings were vibrant, I found I could not connect with Rumi. The author’s style was a bit more distant than what I most enjoy. The father, while not meant to be likable, was almost unbearable for me—almost like a father from Roald Dahl, except for a more human addition of pitifulness.
I will be keeping a close watch for future works from Lalwani, because I can see a lot of potential in her writing.