Bindi Babes by Narinder Dhami (2004)

Everyone loves us. The teachers like us because we work hard, and we’re clever, polite and helpful. The other kids like us because we’re pretty and popular and funny and smart. They even have a name for us. The Bindi Babes. No one’s got more designer labels than we have. We’ve got everything we could ever want. Almost everything.

Remember what I said before? If people envy you, they’re not pitying you. If people envy you, they’re not looking at you and remembering what happened to your mum.

Our mum died.

It happens.

I think this quote sums up the book better than I ever could. The “us” in question are Amber, Jazz, and Geena, three Indian sisters living in England. The girls get everything they want from their dad because their mom has recently passed away, and not only that, but they’ve convinced themselves (as well as everyone around them) that they’re fine, just fine, and nothing at all bothers them. They are loved by all, worshipped by boys, and even have a pesky friend underfoot.

Everything is wonderful! Until their father announces that their Auntie is coming to live with them. They plot mightily to get her to leave and the cracks start to show. The story is funny and sweet while delving into some pretty serious issues: grief, racism, domestic violence. Mostly, though, the book is concerned with happiness and grief and the lies we tell ourselves to pretend to be the former and not deal with the latter.

That makes the book sound dour, and I promise it isn’t. The girls antics are really funny, and Dhami handles everything with a light touch. It’s great as a beach or light weekend read.

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