Book Review no. 4: Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan
Genre: Middle-grade school story
Completion Date: August 9, 2019
Content for the sensitive reader: some very mild language from Joe and his parents, Hindu superstitions, references to underwear and a few average school-story crudities.
BookmarkedOne Rating: 6/10
It’s a school story. That should be obvious.
It was obvious, going in. I knew picking up the book that this was going to be one with no wizards, swords, bloodshed, archery, unicorns, magic rings or anything fantasy-related at all.
I’m going to need a few minutes to set aside my personal preferences.
Or more than a few minutes. I don’t read school stories without yawning and rolling my eyes. Even magical school stories are met with a hard stare and a stiffening of the spine.
So why, exactly, did I read this one?
Sarah Weeks is the answer. After I read Pie (complete with pie recipes!), I’ve read a few of her easygoing, American suburb stories. They’re good read-alouds during the summer if you have a big porch with a swing. And someone to read them with, of course.
Back to this book.
Even with putting aside my school-story biases, Save Me a Seat was about in the middle as far as books go. I can’t say I found anything wrong with it, but there wasn’t a whole lot that inspired me to greatness. It was a school story. There’s nothing particularly novel about the setting, characters, or style.
So what did captivate me about the story?
Well…this may sound shallow, but mostly Ravi’s voice and his descriptions every single chapter of what his mother was cooking. If nothing else, Sarah Weeks knows what she’s doing when she’s talking about food.
And I’m not even one of those people that reads books for food descriptions or cares that much about it in real life! But something about Ravi talking curry, cumin, and tofu made me want to keep reading.
And on a deeper level…I think we all know at some point what it feels like to be the kid who doesn’t fit. And Ravi, yearning for someone to pronounce his name correctly (been there, done that, now answer to just about whatever), stubbornly holding on to the idea that he is smart even when everyone argues to the contrary, wanting things to be the way they always were, that’s something that’s universal.
There’s also the fact that the parents argue when they don’t understand how to help their kids, and the more frustrated everyone is, the more ridiculous the argument gets. That part of flaring tempers the authoresses could not have captured more perfectly. When one thing is wrong, everything is, regardless of who or what is right or hurt besides you. It’s a blinding thing no one is immune to. Not even the people that love you best.
And it should be mentioned that I did read the entire thing in about 24 hours. I suppose that says something for the book, especially coming from a hardcore fantasy reader who hates inconsequential school drama. After I picked it up, for some reason I can’t explain even to myself, it stuck in my hands and my mind until it was done.
And that’s saying a lot for a school story, after all.