My first impression as I began the advance reading copy of Chloe in India by Kate Darnton, provided by Net Galley, could best be described as irony. Chloe, a middle class American girl finds herself a minority in Class Five at the Premium Academy in New Delhi, India. Blonde American girls aren’t usually on the fringe. Homesickness for her best friend and the life she knew in Boston intensifies her struggle to fit into this world so different from the one she knows.
Her first attempt to adapt as the book opens has her coloring her blond hair with a black magic marker. After all, every single one of the ninety-eight other kids in Class Five has black hair. Only one other student in the entire school is blonde. Her journalist mother, with her father’s concurrence, has brought their family that includes an older sister to India because that is where the stories are.
Chloe will soon see that worse things than blond hair can keep one out of the “in” crowd. Two of the girls in her class, Lakshmi and Meher, are ignored as if they were not there. These girls are tokens from the lower social stratus admitted to the school in a patronizing fashion. Away from school, she becomes friends with Lakshmi which leads to the another inevitable attempt to fit in when Chloe will have to make a decision between an invitation that will include her in the group but test her loyalty to Lakshmi.
The plot line of girls setting themselves up in status groups with an added layer of the adult social classes with its setting in India rings true. This authenticity comes because the author and her family lived in New Delhi for five years and is real enough to make the reader wonder how much is personal experience.
My last impression as I finished was of an engaging authentic novel for middle grade girls that would be an excellent book for an adult to read alongside or for a class to read aloud. Good discussion should follow.