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The Whole Story of Half a Girl Hardcover – January 10, 2012

38 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

After Dad loses his job, Sonia Nadhamuni has to move from private to public middle school, and it is not easy for her to fit in, especially because Dad is Hindi and Mom is Jewish American. Sonia sometimes feels “too dark to be white, too light to be black.” Why is Kate, the star of the cool white crowd, so nice to Sonia, even taking her shopping and getting her on the cheerleading team? Should Sonia sit with Alisha and the black crowd in the lunchroom? There is also conflict at home: Mom hates cheerleading, shopping, reality TV, and junk food; Sonia hates Mom’s tofu-heavy cooking. To her shame, Sonia denies her Jewish roots. Then Dad gets depressed and things become much worse. Told in Sonia’s wry present-tense voice, the mixed-race-family identity conflicts, as well as the universal contemporary drama of trying to act cool––and decent—will easily pull readers through this debut novel. Grades 4-6. --Hazel Rochman


Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, November 14, 2011:
"In Hiranandani’s debut novel, Sonia’s struggles are painfully realistic, as she wrestles with how to identify herself, how to cope with her family’s problems, and how to fit in without losing herself. True to life, her problems do not wrap up neatly, but Sonia’s growth is deeply rewarding in this thoughtful and beautifully wrought novel."

Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2011:
"Four decades separate Sonia Nadhamuni and Judy Blume’s Margaret Simon, but these feisty, funny offspring of Jewish interfaith marriages are sisters under the skin. Like Blume, Hiranandani resists simplistic, tidy solutions. Each excels in charting the fluctuating discomfort zones of adolescent identity with affectionate humor."

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 7
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (January 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385741286
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385741286
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,711,899 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A reader from Massachusetts on January 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Ms. Hiranandani's fantastic debut novel is not only an important and creatively crafted book for young readers but as an adult, I enjoyed the ride back to adolescence connecting to all the joys and heartaches many of us experience. The main character Sonia represents a unique but also universal experience of growing up. Ms. Hiranandani's writing allowed me to connect to Sonia, her friends and family as fully developed characters. I became lost in the book and am now reading it with my son. A fantastic book for parents and young readers to read together!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Marcie C on April 4, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My daughters (10 and 12) both read this book in one sitting. They could not put it down. Such a refreshing book--tackles big social issues with wonderful dialogue--fast-paced and keeps the language at middle-grade level. The main character, Sonia, is believable and likable--she deals as best she can with her father's depression, and yet the story remains upbeat and light. So glad we have added this fantastic book to our shelf! Will certainly re-read again and again, and will recommend it to friends!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Hannah @ Paperback Treasures on January 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover
When I requested The Whole Story of Half a Girl on NetGalley, I thought it was YA. After reading a few pages, though, it was obvious that this is MG. Sonia is in the 6th grade, and honestly, that made me want to stop reading The Whole Story of Half a Girl - I thought the MC and the story would be too immature and I wouldn't be able to enjoy the book. But since it's such a quick read, I kept reading. And while the novel isn't perfect, and I'm definitely too old for it, it did end up being an enjoyable read.

Despite my wariness of reading from a sixth-grader's point-of-view, I ended up really liking Sonia. She's easy to relate to, despite our age difference, and I really liked how her innocent, young view of life affected her way of seeing and describing things.

I liked reading about the family dynamics, the little sister and her realistic relationship to Sonia, and the father's issues are handled well. I also liked reading about the differences in Sonia's and Kate's families.

The subtlety in The Whole Story of Half a Girl is great. That's one of the things I really liked about the - admittedly few - MGs I've read; they're more subtle than a lot of YA books. It's a great example of showing instead of telling, and that made me really like the characters - Kate, Sam, and the rest of Sonia's characters are all fully-developed characters.

The way the racial issues are handled, however, is only okay, in my opinion. It's too big a deal how everyone at school asks whether Sonia is black or white - honestly, what's the big deal? Have they never seen someone Indian before? The same goes for religion - everyone thinks it's weird that Sonia is Jewish, too, but I didn't get that either - do kids really care whether their peers are Jewish, Christian, or anything else?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By DAC VINE VOICE on January 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Sonia has always attended the same private school, Community. After Sonia's father loses his job, there's not enough money to send Sonia and her younger sister, Natasha to Community. Come the new school year Sonia will be entering the sixth grade and going to public school for the first time. At her private school Sonia was never questioned about her identity. Though at the new school, some of other students ask Sonia, What are you? Sonia is trying her best to fit in but finding it difficult when she notices that Black and White students do not hangout together at lunch. Sonia, who's father is Indian and mother is Jewish wonders where this leaves her. Soon Sonia must choose who she will be friends with Kate, a popular cheerleader or Alisha who loves to write.

One of the things I loved about this story besides Sonia's voice, if the fact that while this is in part about a girl understanding her identity, this one aspect of the story doesn't overshadow everything else, and I know could've easily happened. Sonia's family is also coping with her father's most recent bout of depression after losing his job. I thought Hiranandani did an excellent job with this part of the storyline. It reminded me of Silhouetted by Blue by Traci L. Jones in which the main characters father also suffers from depression. With all this going on in, the story never feels too heavy, the author is able to keep a light tone. The story moves at a great pace and is filled with wonderful dialogue. A 2011 debut favorite.

The Whole Story of Half a Girl received a starred review from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus read both via Hiranandani's blog

The Kirkus reviewer compares Sonia to Blume's main character in Are you there God? It's Me, Margaret. That is classic goodness and a lot to live up to and Hiranandani does just that.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By bookworm1858 VINE VOICE on January 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I really applaud this book for tackling a lot of big issues and balancing them well while keeping the book at a middle-grade level. To start with, this book looks at a young girl in a typical nuclear family, parents and sister, who live a comfortable existence. After her father loses his job, it causes a big shift in the family dynamics and precipitates a lot of change.

This could totally have been an issue book. Sonia's dad loses his job, causing a big change in the family finances and pushing her dad into depression. Sonia has to leave her beloved private school to start sixth grade at public school where she has to navigate mean girls and an entirely different school culture. She also starts to wonder: is she Indian? Is she Jewish? Can she be both? Plus she's growing up and is soon going to be a teenager with all those emotional issues. Basically there's a lot of stuff here! Any one of those could have been the focus of a book. But this one never felt weighted down despite the seriousness, which I would have to say speaks well of the writer. At times some issues were dealt with superficially in my opinion but remember that this is a middle-grade novel and for that age group, I would say it does a good job.

Particularly interesting to me was the family situation. I don't think I've read many books with a depressed character and seeing its impact on this family really struck me. I also really loved Sonia, which is a big plus. She's confused about some of the changes in her life and is just trying to do the best she can. Of course, she makes mistakes (one colossally huge one later in the book) but she always retained my interest and sympathy.

Overall: A very pleasant experience with excellent balance between light and serious for a fast and absorbing read.
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