Winner of the South Asia Book Award School Library Journal Best YA Book of the Year Kirkus Best YA Book of the Year ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults Amelia Bloomer Top Ten Book for Young Feminists Junior Library Guild Selection
Katina King is the reigning teen jujitsu champion of Northern California, but she's having trouble fighting off the secrets in her past.
Robin Thornton was adopted from an orphanage in Kolkata, India and is reluctant to take on his future. Since he knows nothing about his past, how is he supposed to figure out what comes next?
Robin and Kat meet in the most unlikely of places — a summer service trip to India to work with survivors of human trafficking. As bonds blossom between the travel-mates, Robin and Kat discover the healing superpowers of friendship.
At turns heart-wrenching, beautiful, and buoyant, Mitali Perkins' new novel explores the ripple effects of violence — across borders and generations — and how small acts of heroism can break the cycle.
Mitali Perkins has written many novels for young readers, including You Bring the Distant Near (nominated for the National Book Award) Rickshaw Girl (a NYPL best 100 Book for children in the past 100 years, film adaptation at rickshawgirlmovie.com), Bamboo People (an ALA Top 10 YA novel), and Forward Me Back to You, which won the South Asia Book Award for Younger Readers. She currently writes and resides in the San Francisco Bay Area: mitaliperkins.com.
Superb YA. And here’s a keyword review because time and longer writing aren’t in the cards for me today: . Sexual assault Survivor Kolkata Adoption Church Travel Babies Human trafficking Friendship Family Love . As soon as I started reading this I texted @definitelyRA and said, “I immediately thought of you!” - if you don’t know this, RA is a superhero advocate and fundraiser for groups that fight human trafficking and I knew this book would be perfect for her. . And overall, I adore Mitali Perkins and her work, and this is yet another stellar book from her. Loved it!
CW: past sexual assault, human trafficking, parental abandonment
This book was on my TBR for 2019 and now it’s also on my 20 books to read in 2020 list, so I knew I wanted to read it soon. After almost languishing on my couch for four days without reading anything, I finally decided to pick this up. And I don’t know if it was the right pick at the moment, I can’t deny that it was a very profound read.
The one thing I can tell you about the author’s writing is that it’s very engaging from the first page, with the right amount of pacing that makes you wanna breeze through it without taking any break - which is exactly what I ended up doing. The actual issues that are dealt within the book can be a bit tough to read, and the author never shies away from confronting us in a very straightforward way which can force us to think, but it still works well with her choice of using a dual POV as well as short chapters. The writing is very hard hitting and we feel deeply all the emotions that the characters are feeling, and I couldn’t have asked for anything less. The story takes place a bit in Boston and a lot of it in Kolkata, and I thought the author did a brilliant job bringing both the cities to life, and I almost felt transported there through her words. I also like the choices that the author made in the story - keeping things more realistic, not neatly tying up everything in a bow and leaving us with a sense that this is just the beginning, not the end.
There are so many important themes explored in the story but the author never lets them overwhelm the readers. Human trafficking is the major underlying theme here but the author doesn’t focus on why it happens, but more on what can be done to help the survivors, the kind of support and resources they need and how difficult it maybe to help them thrive in the outside world. Religion and church is also a major foundation of this book, with service and volunteering forming the major way through which our characters find their way forward and purpose in life. The aftermath of sexual assault and the grief of abandonment/ the uncertainty of being an adopted child also are other major issues that the characters face and I thought the author handled them with a lot of thought and sensitivity.
Kat is a fierce, confident, ambitious and determined high school girl who’s life in thrown into disarray when she is assaulted. As a jiu-jitsu belt holder, she manages to defend herself but it still leaves a mark and it was tough watching her deal with panic attacks, nightmares and just complete discomfort about being in the space with a group of men. But through meeting an old grandmotherly teacher, a new group of church friends and working with the trafficking survivors, she learns that there are more ways of being empowered than just self defense, and she also understands the different ways in which she can help those in need.
Robin/Ravi has grown up with privilege in a wealthy family but being a brown adopted child of two white parents has always left him feeling conflicted, and he has never had the opportunity to explore or identify his feelings about this. But when he gets an opportunity to go to Kolkata, he finally decides to look for his birth mother. He has lots of hopes and dreams about his reunion and going to back to India really brings out a lot of feelings in him - unimaginable grief and anger and a deep desire to help the survivors; he also finds himself becoming more confident, assertive, finally trying to love himself and also accept the love that he has received from his parents without feeling guilty.
There are also some wonderful side characters we meet like the church group who are exactly the kind of supportive friends both Kat and Ravi need, Grandma Vee who makes such a positive impact on Kat letting go of her anger and helplessness, Ravi’s parents who are so compassionate and loving, Banto who is the most adorable friend they make in India and the amazing group of people working for the emancipation of trafficked children and the brave group of survivors. Every relationship written in this story is very meaningful, with each person helping the other grow in some way or the other and I just loved reading about all of them.
To conclude, the issues that this book talks about maybe tough but it is a beautifully written and emotionally engaging book. It has a great ensemble of characters who are all faithful and compassionate and just want to do good. If you like reading about complicated youngsters and books that fall between contemporary and literary fiction, you should totally check this out. As religion plays a very important part in this story, the writing did feel didactic at times but never overly preachy and it didn’t affect my reading experience much. I really loved being with these characters and I can’t wait to read the author’s next works.
I have been interested in this book ever since it released, and I'm so glad that I finally made time for it. It's incredibly powerful, and even though I would rate it four stars based on my overall enjoyment, I am giving it five stars because of how incredibly unique it is. I've never read anything like this, in so many different ways.
This book involves heavy topics, which is part of why I hadn't gotten around to reading it yet. The main female character is dealing with the aftermath of an assault, the main male character is dealing with emotional struggles related to his adoption, and the church service trip that they go on involves ministry to human trafficking survivors in India. The book is definitely heavy at times, but there is no graphic content related to abuse, and the author deals with all of these topics in an incredibly sensitive, realistic, and redemptive way.
I really appreciate this book's realistic, positive representation of people of faith, which is very rare in YA, and the story is incredibly powerful. I especially appreciated the plot line related to Ravi's adoption. This book honors his deep attachment to and love for his cross-cultural, cross-racial adoptive parents and his profound sense of loss and mystery related to his birth mother and first three years of life. Many stories about adoptees oversimplify people's experiences, making one of these realities cancel the other out, but this novel represents adoptee experiences in their true complexity. I've never read anything like this in a novel before, just in memoirs, and this is my favorite aspect of the book.
The novel has some pacing problems at times, in my opinion, and there are a couple of subplots that warrant less page time than they get, but I am very impressed with this book overall, and I would highly recommend it to people who enjoy books with international settings, are interested in social justice topics, or relate to the characters' life issues. This is also a wonderful book for readers who are looking for faith-driven novels. The characters' Christian beliefs and questions about faith are beautifully interwoven throughout the narrative without any of it being preachy, and while the faith content should not be a turn-off for secular readers, it will be very meaningful to people who share the author's belief background.
I would recommend this to both teens and adults. The only content concerns involve some occasional mild language, flashbacks to an assault, and the ongoing thematic issues related to human trafficking. The heavy topics could make this book inappropriate for some middle school kids, so I would primarily recommend this to people who are in high school or older, but this is very light on content and would be appropriate for some mature middle schoolers.
I'm gonna be honest: I was a little bit intimidated by this book. I've had some struggles reading in the past few years, which has led me to fall heavily on re-reading or reading books that are easier for me to consume. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with that, but it has accidentally created a minor fear of books with heavier topics and longer page counts. I was delighted from the start to discover this book was nothing to be afraid of at all. There are triggering subjects though, so if that is harmful to you be careful reading this.
From the very first two chapters, I was deeply invested in the storylines of the two main characters, Kat and Ravi. Mitali Perkins, in my opinion, has mastered the art of writing that is beautifully detailed without losing the overarching thread of the story. I was so entranced I read over half of the book in one sitting. Following the characters through their journies was incredible to watch, and I'm so glad I pushed through my initial nervousness about this book.
I always rejoice when there is a new Mitali Perkins book. She tells good stories with real diverse, global characters. This one is no exception. From the riveting beginning with the after effect of Katina's sexual assault to an ending where neither Kat nor Robin achieve their desires and yet where both find a way forward that brings them hope, this book doesn't shy away from difficult topics like human trafficking, but still manages to have grace shine through. I especially like how the American students had to confront the fact that the Indians they work with know better than they do what is needed and how they are called to different roles.
Why 4 stars and not 5? Occasionally, when presenting information about trafficking, the book feels a bit didactic. So it's not perfect, but that's a small quibble. Highly recommended for ages 12 and up. Review based on an ARC through NetGalley.
A thoroughly satisfying book that I had a hard time putting down. about an important and rarely written about topic. Just a note, all of Mitali Perkins' books are on my We Need Diverse Books Seminar reading list. Students get to choose which books they want to read and come out of the class with a collection development list.
This book is a whole lot of trigger warnings probed and examined, including attempted rape, abandonment, poverty, and racism. Mitali Perkins is a well-known author, presenting balance and well-rounded multi-cultural characters. She uses all those skills here. The quick read, with fast moving short chapters, is hard to read in parts, thanks to the strong, and unflinching writing. In general, I definitely recommend this read, and I would love to see boys reading this one. I will say, there was that edge of PSA to it, at the parts where Human trafficking is discussed (a bit more didactic than literary). But overall, very strong book.
Woowie, Mitali Perkins is quickly becoming one of my favorite YA authors! I don't read much YA anymore but if she writes something, I gotta read it, especially when it's aimed at a slightly older/more mature audience than her other works.
I loved the setting of this book; you really don't get to accurately explore South/Southeast Asia through English language novels that much it seems...maybe I'm just looking at the wrong books (suggestions welcome). Along with Kolkata, the Boston area is a forefront setting as well.
Main characters consist of Robin/Ravi, Kat(ina), and Gracie(la); a diverse group all from differing cultures. Ravi/Robin Thornton is Indian and from Kolkata, but adopted and raised by white parents in Boston who are the most supportive people ever, despite at times being helicopter parents--he's a little unsure of his emotions and has no idea what he wants in life. Katina King is biracial, never knowing who her father was, and raised by her white mother in Oakland with the help of her Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu coach, Saundra. Having recently experienced sexual assault, she's struggling to deal with the aftermath of it all and quietly imploding. Graciela Rivera, or Gracie, is a small Mexican-American girl who's as sweet as can be and often reminded me of Bubbles from the PowerPuff Girls, and also has a humongous crush on Robin. Somehow, they all find themselves in a Church small group together in Boston getting ready to spend nearly 3 months in Kolkata, India, doing service work for an organization that fights human trafficking.
So what I liked about this book was the fact that it gracefully dealt with a multitude of topics, some related to each other and others unrelated. Obviously, it dealt with sexual assault and human trafficking and the aftermath of what survivors have to go through, all without being too explicit or highly triggering. It also deals with feelings of abandonment and adoption, and how it can take years to come to terms with the situations one is born and/or raised into. Another interesting topic I quite liked was how it also touched upon American ignorance, with a specific American character being surprised that people in other countries, specifically ones seen as 'third world', can speak English so well and be up to date in pop culture with movies and characters and such. Now, this may be a hot topic, but religion. I myself am a secular Jew who was also raised with Catholicism and forced to attend a Catholic school. BUT, I liked how Perkins wove religion into her novel in a very non-forced way. Religion is mentioned quite a bit as this is a Presbyterian church group doing service work in India, but it's done in a way that is highly respectful of all religions. It worked.
Okay, so I hate to admit it, but what I didn't like about this book was Kat. She was not a bad character by any means, and the fact that I'm nitpicking here shows me that Perkins did an excellent job writing her as all of these characteristics about her serve a purpose in the novel. But I really, really cannot stand how judgmental she is, immediately assigning every single person she meets (or frankly just sees) an animal that's either feline (if she likes them and thinks they're stronger or just as strong as her), avian (if she likes them and thinks they're weaker than her), or canine (mostly for men, but also if she just flatout doesn't like a person). She was beyond judgmental of the character Arjun simply for not agreeing with him on something, despite him doing great work with the Anti-Trafficking association. I get that this is a survival tactic for her, but it was just too judgmental for me. I also didn't like how beyond ignorant she was, acting so shocked that the human trafficking survivor girls could speak English and knew who common pop culture characters like Wonder Woman were. Like yes, hello, people in other countries like the same globally popular things that you do. Also the fact that her Plans A, B, and C for even going on the service trip were WILDLY arrogant, and if she were a white character, it would have been seen as a White Savior Complex. In all honesty I'm glad Perkins wrote her like that to shut down a good amount of stereotypes specifically Americans have about other cultures and countries, but dang...she did a good job with that writing because ughhh it irked me!
All in all, I highly recommend this book. I recommend it to middle and high school teachers to have in their class libraries, I recommend it to be a class reading book, I recommend it to those, whether YA or adult, that maybe need a little healing in their lives, and also I recommend it to people who simply like to read an accurate portrayal of visiting another country.
Funny story: I took my kids to the library and my 2yo decided to take this book home with us. I figured that it looked pretty good (okay, okay, I'm totally one to judge a book by the cover), and it is certainly worth the read. I hope there is a sequel, or that the author has another few books for my son to grab on to for my sake.
CW: deals with human trafficking, sexual assault, infant abandonment, pretty heavy issues. It is not done in a way to shock the reader, it is respectful and not graphic. The teens in this book deal with real life problems, and most high schoolers would benefit from reading work like this.
This book was so amazing! Based on the synopsis, I knew it would be an emotional ride, but I didn't really know what to expect, and Perkins delivered such a moving and strong story about trauma and friendship. Kat is one of the coolest YA characters ever written, being this big strong and tall fighting champion, and feeling so protective of those she cares about, but not being the best at advocating for herself. And Ravi was so sweet, his constant kindness and obliviousness was endearing and fun. I loved also the representation of Ravi's adoptive parents, and how much they wanted to support and care for Ravi in the search for his birth mom. I also think that all of the messages and lessons the characters had to learn were so well thought out and realistic, I just had a very good time reading. I highly recommend this book to all lovers of YA and emotional reads (I promise there are some really witty and fun parts of this book too)!
This was a recommendation through the Writing Excuses podcast, and it had a pretty cover. So I didn't fully know what it was about.
WOW. This book is AMAZING.
Katina is a brown girl with a white mother, whose father is unknown. Mom works hard to pay for food and housing, as well as for Kat's Brazillian Jiu-Kitsu, where mom's best friend Saundra is the trainer. Robin (given name, Ravi), was adopted from Kolkata, India when he was 3 by two very white Christian parents who adore him.
This book has people from different families and backgrounds, with people of different faiths and Christian denominations. It shows that family is not always blood, nor is it always a two-parent (or two-child) thing. Kat and Ravi's parents look into therapy for their children that are geared towards specific needs (like trauma and reunion, respectively). It is fantastic.
Kat is assaulted by a classmate and the trauma gets so bad that she can't be around men. Despite the cost, mom sends her to Saundra's great-aunt Vee in Boston, to be homeschooled for the rest of the year. Robin has preferred that nickname for ages, and on his 18th birthday is granted a lot of money from his grandfather. His dad offers great advice on how to be an informed donor/supporter. He attends a Christian church including a small group...and Vee is a leading member of that church.
Vee convinces Kat to go to small group to meet her friend Robin (and the others). There, Paster Greg says that his friend has asked him to teach in Kolkata that summer for 10 weeks...and the other older teens are welcome to join as part of a small missions trip to help out in different ways at a rescue house for trafficked girls. Kat, Robin, and Robin's friend Gracie (who is Hispanic) go, but the other three can't for various reasons.
Kat loves classifying people, mainly as avian, canine, or feline. It's quite interesting, and not necessarily a part of her trauma but her interest in zoology. Robin's POV changes to "Ravi" in part two. It shows his growth too.
Going to Kolkata allows Kat to learn the different manifestations of strength, and to find God's grace and healing. It allows Ravi to find his voice and his passions (which stem from wanting to find his birth mother). It allows Gracie to find her own strength.
It's a bit irritating that Kat doesn't ask Pastor Greg to stay with a female family (though she confides in Gracie, who offers a possible solution that makes sense without having any suspicion fall on Kat). And it bothers me that Ravi only tells the officer he's training with about a crime he witnesses, and not PG or the people he's staying with. BUT truths come out, first between the teens then each other.
It's so REAL. And the adults are ever-present and helping the teens make decisions. They go to church and different meetings. St. Mother Teresa is brought up. There are tears of despair, hope, sadness, and joy. There is healing and growth.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 for this fabulous book that manages to raise awareness about #humantrafficking as well as tell an incredibly compelling story about two individuals who heal together through a service trip to Kolkata. . 〰️ 〰️ I read this in one day and was completely drawn in by Katina and Robin/Ravi’s stories. Kat is biracial and a jiu jitsu champ who is struggling after an attempted sexual assault. She moves to Boston to live with family friend Vee who she immediately connects with. Robin is of Indian heritage and cherished by his white adoptive parents but he wants to meet his birth mother. The two teens along with Gracie (Latinx) travel to India for a summer church service project to learn about human trafficking and help out however they can. . 〰️ 〰️ I loved both perspectives. I loved Kat especially — she is such a multilayered character. I love how the two main characters are not romantically interested in each other, but instead support each other as friends. (there is a wonderful romance in here, too, though!). . 〰️ 〰️ Reviews say ages 14+, but I am buying a copy of this for my more mature 8th grade readers, particularly students interested in activism and social justice. Besides highlighting the problem of human trafficking, which is a global problem, there are also important messages in here about finding a way to contribute and help people (but also respecting local cultures and serving only when asked). . 〰️ 〰️ #yalit #booksbooksbooks #bookstagram #forwardmebacktoyou @mitaliperkins #yabooks #amreading #librariesofinstagram #librariansofinstagram
When Kat and Ravi travel to Kalkata, India with their church group they go with very different intentions. Kat wants to escape the past and Ravi wants to discover it.
Kat is the reigning teen Jiu-Jitsu champion of Northern California. But even her physical skills couldn’t protect her from sexual assault at her high school. When she leaves for India, she’s desperate to remove herself from anything that reminds her of the experience and the power it still holds over her.
Ravi is having a hard time imagining his future. Adopted from India as a baby, he’s never felt completely at home in his white community, always playing sidekick to his more popular friend. This trip to India is his chance to find his birth mother and come to terms with why she gave him up.
The trip to Kolkata challenges Kat and Ravi in different ways. For Kat, she must find the strength to help girls younger than herself who have traumatized by human trafficking. For Ravi, he must play detective to find his birth mother and confront the painful truths of why she gave him up. Both realize that coming to terms with the past is the only way to move forward. Their small acts of heroism make a big impact in each other’s lives and the lives of those they love.
The trauma of abuse and the redeeming power of serving others stand out in this emotionally connected YA novel. The impact of generations is felt, uncovered, and dealt with as the young protagonists wrestle with race, adoption, family history, and their place in it. Young love flourishes without all of the sordid trappings of the formulaic modern YA world.
Three cheers for Kat, who grows from being conformed and cowered by an abusive situation to standing tall and using her gifts and talents to protect others.
Another honest and hopeful story by Mitali Perkins, author of You Bring The Distance Near. Thank you to Netgalley and publisher for an opportunity to review this e-galley.
I will definitely be purchasing and recommending this to teen readers. I have to admit, when I read that the topic included attempted rape and human trafficking I was hesitant to start it. I've read so many heavy books lately I didn't know if I could handle another one. But I'm so glad I did because now I can reassure teens and parents that this is appropriate for teens, even younger teens. Mitali doesn't sugar coat any issues but she is careful not to dig too deep into the horrors that could push this into another age bracket or require trigger warnings.
This book provides a great context to discuss cross-cultural service. I would recommend it to anyone going on service trips to read and discuss volunteerism vs toxic charity. What it means to go to another culture and provide what they need vs. what you think they need. Hope resources will be included in final copy.
This book is AMAZING!!! Usually I don't like the books that switch between characters, but this one is one of my new favorites! The plot is so good and the detail that is provided is very specific! The only criticism I have is that sometimes it was a little hard to understand what tense it was in. Other than that I give this book 5 stars and an A+ rating!!!
Kat is a teenage girl who loves Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. She was sexually assaulted at school. Her life has changed forever. Now she doesn't like being near guys and is always ready for a fight. Her mom forces her to move to Boston to get away from her attacker and figure out how to heal. While she's there she joins a church field trip to India in the hopes that she can help other girls and young women fight off their attackers.
Ravi is a teenage boy who's been adopted from India by a rich, American couple. When his church offers him the opportunity to go back to the village where he was born, he decides to go. He wants to be able to find his birth mother and maybe get in a relationship with the girl he adores.
Loved this book! My closest coworker friend at my high school job heartwarmingly gifted this to me! Her sister who adopted two Indian boys wrote it. I'm excited because my friend is going to have us all video at some point! Forward Me Back to You is a "Teen/Young Adult" fiction book, and I wholly enjoyed it and found deep meaning in it even as a 25 year old. It made me open to reading more YA books! I definitely want to read all of Mitali's books! The story delved into really intense, complicated and compelling topics like sexual violence, transracial international adoptees navigating their identity during adolescence, intergenerational bonds and faith. I really recommend this book to my fellow adoptees but also anyone else looking for a sweet and powerful story of friendships, healing and growing up.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
TW: Trauma, sexual assault, rape
Forward Me Back to You is one those books that takes you by storm. Dealing with Kat's attempted rape, Forward Me Back to You is very much about her journey to deal with her own recovery, her fears, and her anger. At the same time it's about Ravi's struggles with his adopted parents, as well as dealing with issues in hist past that he doesn't even have words for. It's a book about figuring out what we want and the impact we want to make in this world.
Two teens (with their own issues) from the same church youth group go to India to work with survivors of human trafficking. The book doesn’t go into the stories of the survivors, just the two main characters.
The book felt a little bit too religious at parts and some of the middle chapters dragged a bit.
I liked Grandma Vee. And I liked reading about her interactions with everyone and especially with Kay. I didn’t think the story needed to go to India. Or maybe not for such a long time. It was almost like two different books in one.
I can not describe to you how much I loved this book. So let me tell you what was wonderful. It was tender and sweet. It was bitter and angry. it was about love and loss. It was about real friendship. it was about redemption turned on it's head. I loved both Ravi and Kat became real friends. No romantic tension, no love triangles. Just real support and kindness. Great for teens who like realistic fiction and faith dominant books.
This was such a good YA novel. I found the main characters realistic, likable, and good role models. They have very real goals, make totally understandable mistakes, and learn from those mistakes (rather than the usual “you shouldn’t have done that BUT it worked out for you so we’ll let it slide” kind of mistakes).
This was lovely. The characters were realistic and their connections to one another seemed meaningful. The topics of human trafficking and sexual assault might be might be tough for certain readers, but I thought the author dealt with the subject matter sensitively.
Such a beautiful story! I loved the alternating between the perspectives of Kat and Ravi and appreciated how Mitali Perkins handled the difficult topics within. The vivid images of culture, friendship, acceptance, and faith stood out to me!
I picked this book up at the recommendation of Redeemed Reader. Human trafficking is a difficult subject, making this a heavy read but a gentle introduction to the subject and how folks are seeking to fight it and care for those who have suffered from it. Perkins reminds us that there is more to folks than meets the eye, and I think reading this book will help folks grow in compassion and understanding toward sufferers.
The only reason I didn’t give it five stars is because I think it could have been strengthened by incorporating the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the hope of His coming Kingdom. As often as these folks were in church, I think a few strong Scripture readings would have been appropriate. Pointing readers to Christ’s person and work would have given them a more robust hope than simply “Golden-Ruling”.
All-in-all, a thought-provoking and edifying read. I’m glad I know how the world’s story ends, with my Savior on His throne, ruling and reigning in perfect justice and righteousness…and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more pain, suffering, etc. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!