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The Best at It

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From actor Maulik Pancholy comes an incredibly charming, heartfelt middle grade debut about Rahul Kapoor, a gay Indian American boy coming into his own in a small town in the Midwest.

Rahul Kapoor is heading into seventh grade in a small town in Indiana. The start of middle school is making him feel increasingly anxious, so his favorite person in the whole world, his grandfather Bhai, gives him some well-meaning advice: Find one thing you’re really good at. And become the BEST at it.

Those four little words sear themselves into Rahul’s brain. While he’s not quite sure what that special thing is, he is convinced that once he finds it, bullies like Brent Mason will stop torturing him at school. And he won’t be worried about staring too long at his classmate Justin Emery. With his best friend, Chelsea, by his side, Rahul is ready to crush this challenge. . . . But what if he discovers he isn’t the best at anything?

Funny, charming, and incredibly touching, this is a story about friendship, family, and the courage it takes to live your truth.

336 pages, Hardcover

First published October 8, 2019

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About the author

Maulik Pancholy

4 books69 followers
Maulik Pancholy was born on January 18, 1974 in the USA as Maulik Navin Pancholy. His parents immigrated to the United States from Gujarat, India, in the 1960s. Born in Dayton, Ohio, and grew up in Ohio, Indiana, Texas and Florida. He attended junior high and high school in Tampa, Florida. Pancholy was named one of OUT Magazine's 100 most influential gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender people for 2013.
He married his partner of 10 years, Ryan Corvaia, in 2014, nine months after they were engaged at the Taj Mahal.

He is an actor, known for 30 Rock (2006), Weeds (2005) and 27 Dresses (2008).

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5 stars
804 (40%)
4 stars
883 (44%)
3 stars
260 (12%)
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38 (1%)
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17 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 29 of 402 reviews
Profile Image for Anniek.
1,652 reviews615 followers
May 17, 2020
Why does middlegrade always make me cry? I'm just such a sucker for middlegrade that feels genuine, and this is exactly that.

It was a little slow to start, but when it did, my heart broke for Rahul multiple times, but I was also so proud of him for learning to stand up for himself and learn to be himself.

Rep: gay Indian-American MC with OCD, Indian-American side characters, Japanese-American side character

CWs: bullying, (internalized) racism, homophobia
Profile Image for Dany.
263 reviews86 followers
December 28, 2020
Best at it follows Rahul Kapoor who's the first gen American , (his parents moved frm India) . Rahul enters seventh grade and wants to find something he's good at and wanna be best at. He tries a lot of things like football (or soccer , I don't get american sports) , being a model .. pretty much all the stuff a 12 y/o can think of.

Best at it might sound like a normal middle grade with the MC figuring out their life , but it encounters a lot of casual racism in all the aspects of Rahul's life.

The feeling of not belonging anywhere is pretty common for every pre teen , but the level of Rahul's not belonging is overwhelming. It's even kinda sad how he just rolls with it as a part of life, because it is.

Rahul's relationship with his family was so authentic. It was so nice how much the family has in common with actual Indian families in India. It was so amazing I could connect with Rahul . (Trust me , that does not happen often. And the point where I say I feel the most connected with a 12 y/o boy as a 20 y/o girl is the sad fact of representation)

To sum it all up , Best at it will be the book I will recommend kids to read and probably get my kids to read. I'm really grateful for Maulik to take an effort to tell his story .

I received the E-copy of this book from Edelweiss and Balzer Bray. This has not affected my opinions.
Profile Image for Maia.
Author 27 books1,938 followers
August 30, 2022
As he heads into seventh grade in his small town in Indiana, Rahul increasingly struggles with his growing anxiety, worries that he might be gay, and desires to fit in to his mostly white junior high school. When Rahul's beloved grandfather tells him a story about his passionate grandma, an engineer who overcame prejudice by being the best student in her school, Rahul interprets this to mean that he also must become the very best at something. He tries out for the football team and auditions as an actor, while ignoring his actual best subject, math, because it seems too nerdy. He also stresses over a cultural fair his family is helping run, worrying about appearing "too Indian". Luckily, his best friend Chelsea cheerleads all of his projects, no matter how strange, and his family assure him that they will accept him no matter what- even before Rahul understands how much he values their support.
Profile Image for max theodore.
418 reviews105 followers
June 26, 2021
ownvoices middle grade book abt a gay indian middle schooler with an anxiety disorder (which for the record hit me right in the ocd) that's incredibly sweet and made me tear up once or twice but also balances the heartfelt/emotional aspects with lighthearted scenes... dude we LOVE to see it. we love to see it! rahul i love you dearly. 4 stars rather than 5 because i'm not the target audience & so i wasn't completely obsessed, but, like, peak content, would have my heart warmed again.

(bonus points for managing to actually do the trope well, because )
Profile Image for tara.
189 reviews116 followers
January 26, 2021
this was so heartwarming and i finished it in one sitting <3

★★★★☆ // 4 stars

— representation: gay indian-american mc with OCD, indian scs, japanese-american sc

— trigger warnings: bullying, racism + internalized racism, homophobia
Profile Image for Renata.
2,449 reviews329 followers
February 10, 2020
last year my work friend Anna and I both went to the same library conference but I got sick halfway through the morning and had to leave early, and the next day we had this conversation

me: what'd I miss?
Anna: Well, Jonathan from 30 Rock was there
me: WHAT
Anna: Yeah I guess he wrote a middle grade book and I was like OMG it's Jonathan from 30 Rock but nobody else cared
Anna: I KNOW

Anyway, this is Jonathan from 30 Rock's book! It's funny and I think will be a good window/mirror situation for a lot of kids--the main character Rahul is one of few Indian-American kids in his small town and increasingly pretty sure he's gay. Anyway, it's overall a fun school story that has elements I think a lot of kids will relate to. I do have a few reservations about the ending:

Profile Image for Ris Sasaki.
857 reviews157 followers
June 13, 2021
4.5 ⭐

Even though I finished this book 1 hour ago, I miss those characters so so much that my chest hurts 😭

I came to realize that middle grade books are absolutely THE BEST WAY to consume LGBTQA+ content.
They're educational, wholesome, whimsical, emotional, touching, funny and sad all at the same time.

Even though I was expecting more of the topic of discovering your own sexuality and the struggles that comes with it, this didnt left me disappointed at all.

Overall, a really good and cute read ♥️
Profile Image for Anita Kelly.
Author 5 books568 followers
November 6, 2022
I loved everything about this, one of those MGs that had me bursting into happy tears a perhaps embarrassing amount. I wanted to give Rahul a hug so hard, I loved his family so much, and I particularly loved how this touched on so many aspects of Rahul’s life and identity—as like all of us, no middle schooler is just one thing.
Profile Image for Nev.
995 reviews125 followers
November 27, 2019
A super engaging Middle Grade story that covers sexuality, mental health, and discrimination. As Rahul is starting seventh grade he has issues with a bully who makes fun of him for being Indian American and possibly being gay. Rahul thinks if he can just become the best at something, then all of his problems will go away.

I really appreciated this book and how it showed Rahul starting to embrace his own culture more, stand up for himself, and get help for what might possibly be OCD. I think the ways that racism, discrimination, and homophobia were challenged in this story will be a good road map for younger readers.

Overall this is a really sweet and entertaining Middle Grade book.
Profile Image for Nathan Bartos.
888 reviews42 followers
August 6, 2021
Read this gay little middle-grade! No, there's not really a romance (but it's middle-grade so not really a big surprise) but it's beautiful and heartwarming and fun. The struggles that Rahul faces in every facet of his identity are explored really well, and I think his journey to find where he belonged was a really enjoyable one. I absolutely loved his friendship with Chelsea and her support. I think my biggest problem was the "closeted homophobe" trope that is just...not usually the case. But overall, I still really enjoyed this read, and I've already recommended it at my library.
Profile Image for Adri.
921 reviews806 followers
May 9, 2020
4.5 Stars

CWs: incurred bullying/harassment, incurred homophobia, depictions of anxiety, panic attacks, and obsessive compulsive tendencies

Maulik Pancholy has written a beautiful debut that is funny, charming, heartfelt, and very necessary.

Rahul is a young gay Indian-American kid who is really working through internalized self-hatred. He's embarassed about the color of his skin, the texture of his hair, and he's terrified at the idea of looking inwards to try and understand who he really is and what he really wants. Throughout his life, he's been taught not only to value whiteness, but to covet whiteness. And the more he tries to mindlessly emulate that, the further he gets away from his true self.

This story also tackles the model minority myth: this idea that being perfect in all aspects of life will win you acceptance, when actually, conforming to rules that were not made for you only ends up stripping away your individuality. But it also asks how we can navigate sterotypes while pursuing our truth. For example, Rahul is really good at math, and considers joining the Mathletes, but he's terrified that doing so will "confirm" the assumption that all Indians are nerdy and good at math.

We also see this in Rahul's exploration of his identity. He's relentlessly bullied and teased because he "looks gay," which builds in this feeling of shame and sadness. So what would it mean for Rahul if people found out he really was? To me, this speaks to how sometimes sterotypes are not unfounded, but that the stigma surrounding sterotypes can sometimes be even more harmful than the sterotype itself.

This is a beautiful depiction of how family, friendship, and culture can be lifelines in an otherwise confusing and overwhelming world. I had so much fun listening to this audiobook, and I really hope that we can look forward to more books from Maulik Pancholy, because his voice is one we absolutely need.
Profile Image for Kristel (hungryandhappy).
1,421 reviews75 followers
February 4, 2020
Silly me for thinking this was a light easy book. It deals with racism, prejudice, mental health, different cultures, bullying, and family. I loved it: sweet and full of feelings.

I cried! Real tears rolled down my face at the end of the book. It moved me so much. This was truly a precious book. It made me so angry, though, because of the bully and the racism. But it also made me so happy with the family love and support and the friendships!

Rahul was one tiny fragile cinnamon roll. Overwhelmed by revelations about himself, but what it means to be 100% him, all Rahul. I cared so much for him and wanted him to have only great things.

I loved all the little details, from his grandma story about studies, to his many aunties cooking indian food and laughing loudly in the kitchen. Being happy.

This was a really great little book and I think everyone should read it.
Profile Image for Tracy.
1,815 reviews31 followers
June 7, 2020
Could you work any more middle school problems into one book with such grace and resolve them, for the most part, without being either sappy or heavy handed? Just perfect insights into all the characters and their backgrounds, all the situations -competitions, tryouts, dances, classes. Inthink this is the perfect read for 5th grade on up
Profile Image for Kristy.
888 reviews12 followers
January 11, 2020
I laughed, I cried. Such a wonderfully warm hearted story about a kid trying to figure out who he is. Loved it! This is how it’s done, folks !
It’s like Simon vs the Homosapiens Agenda for a younger crowd.
Recommended especially for 4-7 grade.
Profile Image for QuietlyKat.
430 reviews
May 13, 2022
I LOVED it! Cute, sweet, funny, awkward, charming, heartwarming, tear-rolling goodness. A beautiful exploration of the challenges of trying to find your place and fit in amongst peers while simultaneously being encouraged by family to embrace your differences and uniqueness. Though it’s target audience is middle school readers, The Best at It is deep and complex but skillfully written in such a way as to be digestible for those readers and entertaining and immersive for readers of all ages.

The Best at It would be a great addition to any home, school or Little Free library!
Profile Image for maddening .
321 reviews7 followers
July 30, 2021
A book that follows an Indian-American gay kid discovering himself & fighting with anxiety, homophobia and bullies ?

𝕋𝕙𝕖 𝔹𝕖𝕤𝕥 𝔸𝕥 𝕀𝕥 by Maulik Pancholy is a book not to be missed! It's middle grade but can be enjoyed by person of any age.

It's a sweltering hot summer in Indiana and the last day of summer vacation. We are introduced to two energetic kids Rahul & Chelsea and one much more energetic elder, Bhai (Rahul's grandfather).

A well meaning advice given by Bhai 'find one thing you're really good at and become 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝔹𝔼𝕊𝕋 𝕒𝕥 𝕚𝕥' encourages Rahul to go on a journey to be the best at something, whether it's a football player, actor or mathelete. His focus lies on winning, but does he ?

Rahul's struggles, anxiety and journey of discovering himself was heart touching & emotional. A journey encased in love, family and friendship.
My favorite character is definitely Rahul. He was weak, forced to bend to society & his mind. But he emerged strong, brave and honest.
Second favorite is Chelsea - she is supportive, loving and the kind of best friend everyone needs. Also Bhai, he is a caring and comfortable character whom I loved dearly.

The thing I most loved about the book is the 'desi' feel to it. I was worried before starting the book that it would focus more on American aspect of Rahul. But no, this book had such a mix of culture but the focus was 'desiness' which I adored.

Underlining the story are very serious topics which were dealt subtly yet powerfully- mental health, homophobia, bullying and racism.

I encourage you to get this book for yourself, your nephew/niece and children. It teaches us how to be ourselves, how winning is not everything and how to love & feel proud of our heritage/culture.
A funny, touching and wholesome book that made me laugh, cry and smile !
Profile Image for Hiroko Z.
96 reviews
November 9, 2020
Rahul Kapoor, an Indian American boy is a 7th grader in Greenville, Indiana. He doesn't know how he really feels about this school year, especially with kids like Brent, who won’t stop bugging him, watches his every move, and teases him. But maybe he can surprise everyone by finding something to do that no one expects, and become the best at it, with the help of his best friend, Chelsea. But trying to be the best at something is hard for Rahul, since people already underestimate him as an Indian kid, and he always has a feeling something bad is going to happen, checking every lock in the house. Things would be a lot easier if he was like his classmate and neighbor that he can’t keep his eyes off of, Justin. Justin is perfect. How will Rahul ever become the best at something balancing all these confusing, mixed up thoughts and feelings swirling within him?

I loved this book a lot. I really liked seeing Rahul grow as a character throughout the book and really could feel his pain and his joy. Some parts of the book left my heart pounding so fast, and others made me smile so widely. This book tackles a lot of topics, the top ones being racism, homophobia, and mental health. I highly recommend “The Best at It” to anyone who likes realistic fiction and to all ages.
Profile Image for Elaine.
82 reviews
July 1, 2020
Rahul and his best friend Chelsea are heading into 7th grade and Rahul is getting more and more nervous. He loves being away from the taunts and meanness of some of the kids in middle school during summer. Besides Chelsea, Rahul's other closet ally is his grandfather, Bhai. Bhai tells him if you want to make it at school find something and become the best at it. Interesting advice that seems like it might work. But Rahul is good at math and it does not seem like the choice that will make him popular. This book is about Rahul searching for who he is and how he can fit in. The cover captures this book.
Family, friendship, humor, sexuality, LGBTQ, racism. This book has it all including characters that are fully developed and a believable story line that rings true to the very end.
Profile Image for Phoenix (Books with Wings).
362 reviews86 followers
August 21, 2021
I read this book some time ago, I forget if it was at the end of July or beginning of August because I *kinda* forgot that I read this book when I was doing things like writing my monthly wrap up on my blog (makes me wonder how many more books I've actually read that I'm just totally blanking on...) but this was a super sweet middle grade book! I read it really quickly, and it was easy to read, but the story was nice and I really enjoyed it!
Profile Image for FloeticFlo.
892 reviews41 followers
November 10, 2022
Aww, this book is a pure example of why I love MG so much! I love the character growth that happens as the MC -- here, Rahul -- is finding their way in the world. This one was filled with humor and heart and the most amazing best friend ever. I literally had the hugest smile on my face when it finished because I was so happy with where Rahul and his friends ended up. I hope to pick up this author's new book as well if it's similar to this one.
Profile Image for Tova.
628 reviews
Want to read
August 29, 2019
This giving me major Kapoor and Sons vibes and I am here for it!!!
29 reviews
February 21, 2022
In this book I really felt for Rahul. I was rooting for him at every turn, and during the part with the Mathletes I was really tense. I would recommend this book to any middle schooler who enjoys reading about themselves.
Displaying 1 - 29 of 402 reviews

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