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Red, White, and Whole by Rajani LaRocca

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FC was given by HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published before the release date (February 2nd, 2021)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Racism, themes of displacement, terminally ill loved one (cancer), loss of a loved one, grief

Friends, this book put me in all the feels. As someone who walks the line of two worlds, the themes of this book had me quaking. And the fact that it’s told in verse was the cherry on top! Truly, this book is so beautifully written and there’s not a single doubt within me, this book will touch so many people. I feel truly honored that I could be given a final copy to read and share with all of you my love for this story!

Our story follows Reha, an Indian American, who loves K-Pop, dreams of becoming a doctor (despite being woozy at the sight of blood), and yearns to find a balance as she navigates the between her two worlds. One world where she’s the only Indian American student and the other, a world filled with her family and community’s culture. As Reha tries to navigate her teenage years, at terrible kind of news will cause Reha to face new challenges. Challenges she never expected to experience.

I can’t say it enough, I love the themes within this book and I think they’re tremendously important. One of the biggest themes about this book is the feeling of displacement and trying to find the place where you fit in. For me, this theme hit so close to home. As someone who grew up with their culture and having to learn my dialect from the beginning, but also growing up going to a regular public school and being the only half Native student, being white-passing, there was never a time where I didn’t feel like I was walking a line between those two worlds. So reading this book and how the main character struggles to find their place between both of those worlds, it really struck a cord with me. And I think that theme alone is going to make so many biracial readers feel seen. I find in literature it’s hard to find books that accurately represent what it means to be biracial and how big of a role displacement can play. Truly, the author did a wonderful job at bringing those feelings and thoughts to life with this book, and I really appreciated seeing everything come together they way they did.

“You belong to both, and they both belong to you. You will find your way in making those two streams one. You will write your own story, and it will be beautiful, because it is yours.”

The other major theme of this book is navigating life with a terminally ill loved one and more specifically, when the loved one is a parent. Not only does the author have a beautiful way with words, but the way the author brings Reha’s feelings and thoughts to life as she experiences this tragedy is so well written. The author doesn’t shy away from showing a wide variety of feelings, thoughts, and actions. I think anyone who has had a terminally ill loved one or has had to face losing someone they care about will feel an instant connection with Reha. I couldn’t stop crying (for a plethora of reasons), but this really hit home. I think the author did a fantastic job at writing about this theme in a very respectful way and you can tell that the author was writing from a personal experience.

There’s so much that I fell in love with throughout this book and if you were it ask if there was anything I didn’t like, I’d say you’re being ludicrous. I loved the K-Pop references and how some of the titles were references to popular songs of the 80’s. Reha, our main character, was such a wonderful character to follow throughout this book. Her perspective was filled with layers of constant changing feelings and thoughts especially as she was navigating this time in her life. What I truly loved most was the author’s not at the end. I loved reading about the author’s experiences and how they were able to take those experiences, and bring them to life with this novel. Truly, I loved this book with my whole chest.

Overall, this was such a delightful book to read and I’m so glad I was sent a final copy! Thinking about this book even now, I still feel a deep stir of emotions this book left with me. I laugh and I cried, I cried so much, but I think this book will touch the hearts of many readers. And I think this book is going to leave a huge impact with an biracial reader. It left a huge imprint on my own heart and I have no doubt it won’t do the same for someone else. I’m happy to say that this is my first favorite book of 2021 and I think that Red, White, and Whole is going to make it onto a lot of ‘favorites’ this year.

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