Karma Khullar's Mustache
Karma will be starting middle school soon, but things have been weird ever since her best friend, Sara, got back from summer vacation. Karma has embarrassing hair on her upper lip, but when she wants to confide in her best friend and figure out how to handle it, suddenly new-girl-in-town Lacy has Sara's undivided attention. Lacy's not shy about calling people names or noticing what's wrong with them, and Karma's 'stache is no exception.
Meanwhile, at home, Karma still misses her grandmother, who used to live with their family and recently passed away. Her mother is working longer hours at her new job at the university, while her father's position was cut, so now he's working from home. Her older brother is starting high school, and he and their father often clash about his choice of classes, hobbies, and attitude. Karma doesn't want to bother her family with her school problems, but school is looking awfully lonely.
There is a lot of realism in the pain of school social relationships in this story. While it was frustrating to watch Karma avoid getting help and feel isolated for so long, a lot of people can relate to those feelings of being unsure, and being too embarrassed to talk about it with anyone - particularly a formerly trustworthy best friend. Many readers may find relief in reading this and knowing that they are not the only ones who have felt left out or teased.
There are a number of references to religion as Karma tries to find her way. At one point, Karma is concerned about a couple of religious teachings, one of which causes her to blame herself for everything, and another which she abandons fairly easily. There is a sort of Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret quality to this story in that the religious exploration is on the sidelines of her school and family struggles.
"I covered my food with my arms, not sure if I wanted to protect it or hide it. I didn't even know why everyone was making such a big deal about my lunch."
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