Thursday, March 7, 2013

SARASWATI'S WAY by Monika Schroeder

Special Feature: Review by a Middle School Student

Schroeder, Monika. Saraswati’s Way. New York: Frances Foster Books, 2010. ISBN: 978-0-374-36411-3. $16.99 US

Have you ever thought of what it would be like to experience the rough life, the harsh conditions, and the sheer terror of living on the streets? Akash certainly has. Coming from a poor family, he is not expected to accomplish much in life, but Akash doesn’t care what other people think. He has great ambitions and is the top of his 7th standard class at his small village school. But he has no idea what hardships await him.

For as long as he can remember, Akash has dreamed of the city. He yearns with nothing more or less than his whole heart to attend school in the city. Akash works so hard to keep his dreams alive; nothing could seem to deter him. Akash comes home every day to an abusive mother who piles the work and criticism and a father who has always backed his mother in arguments, but loves Akash all the same. Life is normal until his father, Bapu, falls ill and dies shortly afterward. A man shows up at their house and takes Akash away to work for him to pay off a debt that his father had failed to do when he was alive. Akash doesn’t want to leave because leaving means quitting school, which was Akash’s joy. Akash thought he must be being punished. He thinks to himself as he traveled with the stranger, “Had Yama, the god of death, taken Bapu to punish him?” (36).

Akash is taken to a quarry and set to work. He is paid every week, but a part of that amount is taken out of his check to pay for his food and water. Akash soon figured out that the rate of money that he got every week did not pay for his food and water, raising his debt even higher. He knows he is being cheated, so he escapes to Delhi. In Delhi, the most unlikely of people, such as math tutors and the policemen cheat Akash and he soon runs out of money. To survive, Akash cheats, steals, lies, and even deals drugs for money, which had become the source of his life. After all his plans were quashed he meets a man named Ramesh who befriends Akash. It seemed he had finally found a friend, and this time, it stayed that way. Akash remembers his final words with his father, Bapu, “What you desire is on its way,” (28). Now Akash knew that that was true.

Akash’s morale and emotions are a very important part of this story. Monika Schroeder manipulates Akash’s character to frame his emotions so they are relatable to most teenagers because teenagers are more likely to read this book. She writes, “The anger that rose in him was muted by embarrassment that he could have been so easily fooled.” Because Schroeder’s writing and character development is so vivid, the reader’s morale while reading the book is almost always identical to Akash. The reader also feels Akash’s happiness and anger. When Akash is cheated, the reader feels his anger and his feeling of betrayal. Akash’s emotions are very complex, but you can understand them because the reader is drawn so close to Akash.

As a middle school student myself, I can very easily identify with Akash’s feelings of betrayal, anger, and mistrust because I have felt them all as well. Because of this, I think most middle school students and maybe even some high school students would get the most out of this book. This book made me see the reality of the world through Akash and experience it with him. This book touched my heart and I will remember it for a long time, if not forever.

Reviewed by Samuel Mangin, 7th Grade

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