The Best at It
The Best at It

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Annotation: In this touching, funny coming-of-age story, Rahul, a gay Indian-American boy starting middle school in small-town Indiana, latches onto his grandfather's advice to excel, in hopes it will shield him from bullies and other hazards.
Catalog Number: #209837
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Publisher: HarperCollins
Copyright Date: 2019
Edition Date: 2019
Pages: 320 pages
Availability: Available
New Title: Yes
ISBN: Publisher: 0-06-286641-9 Perma-Bound: 0-7804-7598-4
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-06-286641-7 Perma-Bound: 978-0-7804-7598-4
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2019009804
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
Kirkus Reviews
An Indian American boy struggles with his sexuality and mental health while finding a place for himself in seventh grade.Rahul Kapoor may not be sure about his sexuality, but he is sure of one thing: This year, he wants to make an impression. Inspired by a story his grandfather tells him, Rahul decides that the best way to impress his classmates—and, in the process, to protect himself from bullies—is to pick something and be the best at it. With the help of his fiery best friend, Chelsea, a white girl who wisely, consistently steers Rahul toward being himself and doing what he loves, Rahul tries a number of activities before settling on Mathletes, where he soon becomes a star. But when Japanese American Jenny asks him to the Sadie Hawkins dance, and when his Mathletes career doesn't go as planned, Rahul spirals into an anxious depression with symptoms of OCD that force him to confront and eventually accept exactly who he is. In his author's note, Pancholy notes that Rahul's story is semiautobiographical, and it shows. Every character in the story is nuanced and sympathetically rendered, and the book does not shy away from racism, sexism, ableism, or homophobia. The protagonist's devastatingly honest voice pulls readers deeply into a fast-paced journey riddled with heartbreakingly authentic moments of anxiety, confusion, and triumph.This coming-of-age story about diverse characters coming to grips with their layered identities rings true. (Fiction. 10-14)
Publishers Weekly
Actor and debut author Pancholy draws from his own experiences as a young Indian American to create this funny, uplifting story about identity. Twelve-year-old Rahul Kapoor lives in Indiana with his parents, his younger brother, and Bhai, his grandfather, who uses a wheelchair and -has a Mr. Rogers-worthy supply of cardigans.- When an obnoxious kid at school taunts Rahul for his inadequacies and questions his sexuality, Rahul decides he must prove to himself, and the world, that he is the best at something. With help from his steadfast friend, Chelsea, and the wisdom and encouragement of Bhai, Rahul begins to learn-after some amusing, misguided failures-who he really is and what he-s actually good at doing. Rahul also navigates anxiety and probable OCD, and with wit and sensitivity, Pancholy charts his rocky path to pride in his layered identity. Rahul finds unconditional acceptance with his family and friends, which sends a powerful, positive message to young readers about choosing self-acceptance. Ages 8-12. (Oct.)
School Library Journal
Gr 37 When rising seventh grader Rahul Kapoor panics about fitting in at middle school, his grandfather tells him to find something he's really good at and be the best at it. But Rahul finds that difficult. Could he be the best at football? At acting? At math? Adding to Rahul's anxiety, his macho Indian uncles keep suggesting that he might be gay, and neighborhood bully Brent taunts him about it, too. Rahul's struggles will resonate with many kids. He works hard to come to terms with liking boys while having anxiety about being good at things, being well liked, and being Indian American in a small, predominantly white town. Rahul is a compelling protagonist, and his challenges ring true. Sometimes Pancholy talks around topics: though the book ends with Rahul coming out to his friends and family, his being gay was only previously mentioned in vague terms, primarily as an insult from Brent. Similarly, though Rahul exhibits some signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety, they are only briefly addressed near the end, when Rahul's dad decides to take him to a therapist. While the writing is always engaging, it is at times challenging to hold on to the many narrative threads. VERDICT Hand this to middle grade readers who are navigating changing social dynamics as they come of age. Kelsey Socha, Ventress Memorial Library, Marshfield, MA
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
An Indian American boy struggles with his sexuality and mental health while finding a place for himself in seventh grade.Rahul Kapoor may not be sure about his sexuality, but he is sure of one thing: This year, he wants to make an impression. Inspired by a story his grandfather tells him, Rahul decides that the best way to impress his classmates—and, in the process, to protect himself from bullies—is to pick something and be the best at it. With the help of his fiery best friend, Chelsea, a white girl who wisely, consistently steers Rahul toward being himself and doing what he loves, Rahul tries a number of activities before settling on Mathletes, where he soon becomes a star. But when Japanese American Jenny asks him to the Sadie Hawkins dance, and when his Mathletes career doesn't go as planned, Rahul spirals into an anxious depression with symptoms of OCD that force him to confront and eventually accept exactly who he is. In his author's note, Pancholy notes that Rahul's story is semiautobiographical, and it shows. Every character in the story is nuanced and sympathetically rendered, and the book does not shy away from racism, sexism, ableism, or homophobia. The protagonist's devastatingly honest voice pulls readers deeply into a fast-paced journey riddled with heartbreakingly authentic moments of anxiety, confusion, and triumph.This coming-of-age story about diverse characters coming to grips with their layered identities rings true. (Fiction. 10-14)
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* Rahul, an Indian American boy in a small Indiana town, finds seventh grade unsettling. His longtime best friend, Chelsea, suddenly blushes and stammers around a friendly eighth-grader. And Brent, a bully, repeatedly makes disconcerting innuendos about Rahul having a crush on a boy he admires. Taking his grandfather's advice to choose one thing and excel in it, Rahul almost breaks his leg at football tryouts and meets racial prejudice at an acting audition, before reluctantly joining the Mathletes team, where he works hard and excels. As his inner tension builds, he begins to check and double-check locks and the stove. After talking with a therapist, he thinks through his worries, confronts his nemesis, and finds that his friends are fully with him. Near the story's end, Rahul comes out as gay to his supportive parents. In his first novel, actor Pancholy creates a number of vivid characters, including Rahul, his grandfather, and his best friend, who counters his reluctance to join the nerdy Mathletes with "Ra, we are nerds! . . . That's what makes us fun!" More broadly, the author depicts Rahul's parents' friends as forming an unusually strong community of belonging for the whole family. An impressive first novel: well paced, sometimes amusing, and wholly engaging.
Word Count: 56,579
Reading Level: 4.0
Interest Level: 4-7
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.0 / points: 8.0 / quiz: 505567 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:4.5 / points:14.0 / quiz:Q77812
Lexile: HL620L

Stonewall Honor Book! From award-winning actor Maulik Pancholy comes a hilarious and heartfelt middle grade debut about a gay Indian American boy coming into his own. Perfect for fans of Tim Federle's Nate series. Rahul Kapoor is heading into seventh grade in a small town in Indiana. The start of middle school is making him feel increasingly anxious, so his favorite person in the whole world, his grandfather, Bhai, gives him some well-meaning advice: Find one thing you're really good at and become the BEST at it. Those four little words sear themselves into Rahul's brain. While he's not quite sure what that special thing is, he is convinced that once he finds it, bullies like Brent Mason will stop torturing him at school. And he won't be worried about staring too long at his classmate Justin Emery. With his best friend, Chelsea, by his side, Rahul is ready to crush this challenge.... But what if he discovers he isn't the best at anything? Funny, charming, and incredibly touching, this is a story about friendship, family, and the courage it takes to live your truth.


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