Summary: I Am Kavi
It’s 1998 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. In the middle of the Sri Lankan Civil War, Kavi is dealing with her own personal upheavals. Her mother has remarried her father’s best friend after his death and is expecting a new baby. Meanwhile, Kavi is getting sent to the city on a scholarship to an elite private school. There, she starts telling lies about a life of wealth and grandeur– small at first, then bigger and bigger — to fit in with the rich kids until she begins to lose herself.
I really liked this debut verse novel. The Sri Lankan setting was rich and full of history—especially one I’ve so rarely seen in middle grade literature. War is a major theme in this story, but unexpectedly, it doesn’t interrupt everyone’s lives. Some people, especially the wealthier living in Colombo, only feel its aftershocks while others, like Kavi’s dad, are directly impacted, which is an important lesson readers can take away: often, life goes on in the midst of war.
Kavi is a highly realistic character. Her frustrations with her mother and her struggle to accept the new changes in her family are all things that everyone, young and old, can relate to. Watching her lie and shapeshift to be accepted reminded me of many kids throughout my school years and even of times when I felt pressure to blend in with the crowd and join in their high tales about possessions and experiences that may or may not have been true. It was satisfying to see Kavi’s growth as she came to understand her mother and stepfather and also accept herself.
The verse format lends itself beautifully to this story as the author’s writing feels poetic while being accessible. It’s also a shorter verse novel at under 300 pages which I think will appeal to more hesitant readers intimidated by bigger books.
Overall: I Am Kavi
I Am Kavi is a touching verse novel about a young girl adapting to changes in her world and finding her voice amidst the Sri Lankan civil war. This is a gentler, introspective middle grade novel (as many verse novels tend to be) that showcases an important period in a country’s history even as a young girl comes of age. I’d hand this to fans of touching verse novels with a strong sense of place and time, like In the Beautiful Country and Red, White and Whole.
Here are some specifics to know about the content.
- Death: Mention of Kavi’s father’s death
- Violence: Mention of Kavi’s father having lost a leg in the war (loss not depicted on the page), mention of a bus bombing with passengers on board
- Alcohol/substance abuse: None
- Religious content: Kavi muses briefly on her growing indifference toward Buddhism
- Sexual content: None
- Ethnic: All characters are Sri Lankan
- Sexual orientation: None
Recommended for ages: 9+
Good for kids who like:
- Books set in Asia
- Books about dealing with changes
- Red, White, and Whole by Rajani LaRocca
- In the Beautiful Country by Jane Kuo
- Books like The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
|Publisher details||Holiday House Books|
|Publication date:||September 19, 2023|
|Cover artists | Designer:||Emilia Niwa|
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