Hardcover, 248 pages
Published January 3rd 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
In the tradition of Persepolis and American Born Chinese, a wise and funny high school heroine comes of age.
Tina M., sophomore, is a wry observer of the cliques and mores of Yarborough Academy, and of the foibles of her Southern California intellectual Indian family. She’s on a first-name basis with Jean-Paul Sartre, the result of an English honors class assignment to keep an “existential diary.”
Keshni Kashyap’s compulsively readable graphic novel packs in existential high school drama—from Tina getting dumped by her smart-girl ally to a kiss on the mouth (Tina’s mouth, but not technically her first kiss) from a cute skateboarder, Neil Strumminger. And it memorably answers the pressing question: Can an English honors assignment be one fifteen-year-old girl’s path to enlightenment?
Tina’s Mouth by Keshni Kashyap and Mari Araki (illustrator) breaks all sorts of boundaries. The novel is an interesting specimen of alternative narration that is sure to appeal to contemporary teens and young adults. Though ostensibly a graphic novel, it straddles the fence between an illustrated novel and a true graphic novel. The illustrations are fun and breezy and I especially love the way the characters have been drawn. Tina has a long-suffering expression on her face which fits in perfectly with the tone the novel is written in and her precociousness.
I also loved the portrayal of liberal Indian parents for once rather than those who are repressive or oppressive because honestly, my parents are more like the ones found in this novel than anywhere else. Not identical in their attitudes but similar in their thinking styles. But Tina does have to navigate a world that wants to categorize her as Indian or America – God forbid she be both.
There are also Tina’s siblings who are facing their own many problems and it is both amusing and familiar to see their lives play out. The relationship dynamics – growth and deterioration of various friends, the betrayals and the inevitable heartache are all related in a fresh voice that steers far from melodrama and angst. The novel is told with a tongue in cheek feel that culminates in the end when Tina’s possibly gay brother announces to the family that he has an announcement to make.
Overall, I enjoyed the novel a whole lot and would recommend it to anyone who wants chuckles and good reading.