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3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  1,352 Ratings  ·  239 Reviews
It is 1984, and fifteen-year-old Maya is on her way to India with her father. She carries with her the ashes of her mother, who has recently committed suicide, and arrives in Delhi on the eve of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's assassination - one of the bloodiest riots in the country's history.
Then Maya is separated from her father and must rely upon the help of a mysteri
ebook, 528 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by Razorbill
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Karma is a moving fictionalization of the horrific 1984 massacre of Sikhs in India, told through verse and from the perspective of a teenage Canadian girl.

Some lines, while tender and emotive, seemed a bit clichéd to me:

Dear Maya,
Life is an illusion.
And as it turns out, so is death.
What is real?
What remains when we all fade away?
Two things: Love. Forgiveness.
Don't forget.

As a whole, though, this is an amazing book in its characterization and its unflinching willingness to explore complex theme
Jun 18, 2012 Shona rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I found Karma to be a relatively compelling read in which the author made some intriguing choices - particularly mirroring the conflict in India in 1984 with the main characters own heritage. On that basis, it was enlightening and worth the time it took to read it. The fact that that the author was present in India for a short visit at the time period in question adds some credibility to the historical aspects of the narrative, but I still found myself uncomfortable with the idea that it had bee ...more
- ̗̀ Jessica  ̖́-
Goodness, this book was quite fascinating! This book was a bit choppy in my opinion because the book was written as several poems which forms a story that you would have to picture in your mind alone. Overall I actually kinda liked it
Jul 13, 2011 Terri rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read some great multicultural pieces this summer that I can't wait to booktalk in the fall! "Karma," by Cathy Ostlere, is one such novel. The piece takes place in India from late October 1984 through late December 1984 with flashbacks to earlier in the main character's life. If you are familiar with your history, you know that on October 31, 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated in her garden by two of her Sykh bodyguards as revenge for the attack on the Sykh's holy "Golden ...more
Apr 03, 2011 Marcie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Karma is defined as action, seen as bringing upon oneself inevitable results, good or bad, either in this life or in reincarnation. This is the main theme woven throughout this novel. The main part of this story takes place during the riots that broke out after Indria Gahndi is gunned down in 1984. Maya is the main character in this novel. She writes down the unfolding of these horrific events in her diary. The riots are between the Hindus and Sikh. The turmoil between these two religious groups ...more
Aug 15, 2011 Deanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Verse novel, young adult, culture, historical fiction

I enjoy learning about countries and cultures through fiction. I am interested in finding out more about the author, Ostlere. Is she from Indian background and what kind of research did she complete to write this novel? Set in 1984 when India's prime minister is killed and religious genocides occur.

Maya, fifteen years old, is growing up in Canada where her parents immigrated to from India. Her father is Sikh and her mother is Hindu--completely
Apr 21, 2011 Christopher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It seems like all of young adult literature is being written in verse nowadays. This is, at least, the fifth book I've read this month written in verse, yet "Karma" is by far the best of the lot. Set against the backdrop of the assassination of Indira Gandhi and the riots between the Sikhs & Hindus that followed, "Karma" tells the story of Jiva/Maya, a Canadian-Indian girl forced to return to India with her father after the death of her mother. Both lyrical, haunting and romantic (many times ...more
Stacey Mclaren
This novel is written in poetic form. It took me about ten pages to get into the "voice" of the author but after that I fell in love with it. The story was amazing and has deep content to discuss with students in the 9-12 age range. This is also a Forest of Reading nominated novel for the 2013 collection.
Feb 05, 2011 Cathy rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
I am the author Cathy Ostlere. Writing the book has been an exciting journey. I can't wait to hear your thoughts!

For more information please visit or feel free to e-mail me
ML Books
Mar 10, 2013 ML Books rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to ML by: found this at the library book sale
Shelves: great-books
This is an amazing book. In the teen readers genre. Intense and poetic. I love the style the author wrote in. Different and really pulled you into the lives of the characters.
Marilyn Belsham
No understatement here to state that I loved this book. What a joy it was to read this very unique, interesting, heart-rending, and heart-warming story.
Kevin Kuehn
Oct 20, 2016 Kevin Kuehn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Historical fiction written as narrative poetry. Definitely a first for me, but wow. This book is compelling and rich. In both a historical and personal context, this book touches on so much of the beauty and heartbreak of India. The story of Maya (Jiva) and Sandeep is a love story. It's a drama. It's a comedy. It's a tragedy. It is clear that Cathy Ostlere has spent in India, and the way that she captures her experiences through her characters is very real. A strong recommendation for everybody ...more
Margo Tanenbaum
I was immediately drawn into Cathy Ostlere's stunning debut novel, Karma, written in free verse and set in India during the turbulent period immediately after the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984. Her 15-year old heroine, Maya, a Canadian teenager who’s half-Hindu, and half-Sikh, is traveling with her grief-stricken father to India with the ashes of her mother and a new diary to record her thoughts. On the night they arrive, the prime minister is killed in her own garden by her Sikh guards ...more
Feb 02, 2012 Librarysteph rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most beautifully written novels I’ve read since my undergrad. It’s in verse, with the narration and dialogue formatted in a unique and stylistic manner. If not executed correctly such a bold format would have taken away from the story, but Ostlere used it to enrich the text. In stark contrast to the last novel I read, Blood Red Road, the dialogue flowed naturally and it was always apparent who was speaking even without quotation marks.

This novel illustrates the difficulties of
Maya has lived in Canada with her Indian parents all her life. Now, her and her father are making their way back to India with her mother's ashes. When they arrive in India though, the assassination of Indira Ghandi has things in an uproar. They end up having to go their separate ways just to survive. Sandeep saw Maya, and knew that he would love her. Though she wasn't speaking, he would be her voice and hopefully bring her back where she belongs.

What a heartbreaking novel. I always hate people
KARMA is a beautifully written book about self-discovery, and what it means to love.

Not my usual genre of YA book, I was blown away by KARMA – the writing, the story, description and characters all drew me in and kept me captive for the length of the book (and it’s not short!). Maya is an Indian-Canadian teenage girl. The story is written through verse, and is Maya’s diary. Through her, we learn about her family, culture, and life in a small prairie town. Despite the cultural differences, and so
Karma was one of those impulse reads that I picked up mainly for the pretty cover (isn’t that the reason for all impulse reads?). While I didn’t know what to expect from the book, I was pleasantly surprised in some aspects, not so much in others.

Karma is the story of Maya, a half-Hindu half-Sikh teenager, who is traveling to India with her father to spread the ashes of her recently deceased mother. The first night Maya and her father, whom she calls Bapu, arrive, the Prime Minister Indira Gandh
Brooke Cheyenne
Thought this book would be a quick read. Its quick if you can keep up with it and not lose interest. I lost interest multiple times and therefore it took me 2 weeks to read.

I had to read this book for white pine and at first found it to be very interesting. It follows a hindu/seik girl named Maya whose father brings her to india to say goodbye to her mother's ashes. During their stay, all hell breaks lose in India and Maya is separated from her dad and fostered by a family who is very strict and
Arthur Pengerbil
Reading Level: Grades 7+

The year is 1984. Fifteen year old Maya packs a suitcase for a trip to India with her father. They are going to lay Maya's recently deceased Hindu mother to rest. Not long after they arrive, however, tumultuous religious differences between the Sikhs and Hindus explode into violence when prime minister Indira Gandhi is assassinated.

Maya and her father, a Sikh, are caught in the middle of the clash and separated when their hotel is attacked. Afraid for her safety because o
Mar 13, 2011 AnQi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry

Cathy Ostlere brings to life a moving and rich post World War II novel about a girl named Jiva who must struggle to find her father in the religiously divided country of India. Throughout the book, elements of romance, historical fiction, and a coming-of-age story are all woven into this novel that tells its tale through angelic and detailed prose.

Jiva, who's name means 'life', has always been different, even in her home country of India, where her ancestors a

Feb 20, 2013 Me rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a very interesting book. The emotions, characters, and plot are all very unique and interesting. This book is written in verse, something I'm unsure of. One POV, Maya, had some very interesting poems. The ones that were the most interesting were those that were call and effect across the page. However in Maya's POV their were a few chapters that were basically sentence that were awkwardly entered, and not so pretty. The other POV, Sandeep, had no flowery poetry. This was also written in ver ...more
Allison Saunders
The book that I read was Karma, it is written by Cathy Ostlere. The main character in this book is Maya, a young girl who is struggling with personal loss and struggling with two different cultures, Maya later learns acceptance and love. If I was Maya in this book, I think that it would be difficult to understand how each culture is and how their way of life is but it would also be difficult to deal with the loss of somebody you love like Maya did in this book because she lost her father later o ...more
Jan 23, 2011 Liz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When a fifteen-year-old girl's mother dies, she and her father return to India. She only has two things with her. A diary and her mother's ashes. After the prime minister of India is shot down, India is thrown into chaos. Maya must find her way home through the turmoil of the country. This story is written in poetic style. They story is very gripping. You won't be able to put it down. Travel with Maya as she learns to trust and love again. She grows and learns the true meaning of life, love and ...more
Jul 27, 2013 Shweta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first novel i've read in verse. It tells of a riot, where the country was once again burned and the communal disharmony was in sync with people's fear.

Mostly, this is a story of a canadian immigrant girl who comes back to India and her bond with a boy name Sandeep.

The verses, are simple to understand, and yet they touch your every chord of your heart. The story grows on you on such a level, that you start even talking to yourself in verse.

Give this a read, for its a simple story to
MB Mulhall
Jul 30, 2011 MB Mulhall rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A seriously amazing book on a topic I knew nothing about. Please don't shy away from it because it's free verse. The fragments, the clipped emotions and descriptions, somehow explain things better then a couple pages of flowing prose. It gives you that sense of urgency and fear that the characters are experiencing. The rush of emotions they are unused to. It doesn't hide behind anything.

I do feel the main character acts/speaks a little older than her age at times, she was raised differently tha
Apr 04, 2011 Katie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I highly recommend this book. It was very interesting reading about India during this time of turmoil. It really makes you think about religious divides & how society works. You don't know til the very end what will happen. It is told from the perspective of a teenage girl. I think the author really hit the nail on the head in that she created a believable teenage with an adequate amount of parent -child angst without over doing it. This is absolutely a book an adult could read - it in no wa ...more
Mar 20, 2013 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya-fiction
Flipping through this book, I initially thought it was written like poetry. The author has chosen a non-traditional way of expressing conversation and thought. Once I had the flow of the writing style, I was able to enjoy the storyline. The story is set mainly in India beginning on the day Indira Ghandi was murdered. An interesting view of the struggles of being born of Indian parents in Canada and being Canadian born when visiting India.
Chiththarthan Nagarajan
What you give, you'll get back!

I felt the sadness, lonely and pain in each page of a book. I kinda like a bravery, foolishness, silence of Maya(Jiva).

What this book taught me? Nothing.

Karma gave me the sweet pain only the readers can endure. I learned that we're allowed to give up if we're not going regret. Well! Karma is a bitch(pardon me for harsh word) in many ways, but she needed in everyone's life to keep us in line. A boundary of what we can do and what we should do.
Diana Thompson
May 08, 2013 Diana Thompson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed this 2013 White Pine Award nominee book. I learned more about Indian culture. Ostlere did a great job showing the effects of racism both in Canada and India. The format (verse) was done very well. It was easy to read, though the content was not always easy to read about. I would highly recommend it.
Penguin Random House Canada
Written in verse, Karma is immediate, poetic, lovely. It's a love story, but also a look at India's instability following Indira Gandhi's assassination.
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Cathy Ostlere’s second book, KARMA, a novel-in-verse, grew from her travels through India in 1984, the year Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. KARMA's story of two teenagers who fall in love while fighting to stay alive is a moving and turbulent narrative based on real historical events. Cathy's first book, LOST: A MEMOIR, began as a series of poems and essays. I ...more
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“When we tell our stories, the gods hear our sorrows.” 7 likes
“I listen to the sound of India's voices for the last time . Laughter ripples like water . A prayer is a single note held long . There is so much life here . And too much death.I feel a soft brezze caress my face and I look up. An orange ribbon is floating through the air . In India , it's easy to see the wind .” 5 likes
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