Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Girl of the Southern Sea” as Want to Read:
Girl of the Southern Sea
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Girl of the Southern Sea

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  216 ratings  ·  68 reviews
A gifted student, Nia longs to attend high school so she can follow her dream and become a writer. She has notebooks filled with stories she’s created about the mythological Dewi Kadita, Princess of the Southern Sea. But her family has barely enough money for food, let alone an education, so Nia’s days are spent running their food cart and raising her younger brother.

Paperback, 216 pages
Published February 2nd 2021 by UQP (first published May 23rd 2019)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Girl of the Southern Sea, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Girl of the Southern Sea

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.08  · 
Rating details
 ·  216 ratings  ·  68 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Girl of the Southern Sea
Jul 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is such a beautiful book I now hold so close to my heart. As an Indonesian-Australian reader, I related so much to this having been to Jakarta many times in my life, understanding the culture, the language, seeing the chaos in the city traffic, the poverty and even the slum areas. I felt close to the protagonist, Nia and I loved her fierce spirit and sheer determination of wanting to make her life her own. It’s true - many girls who grow up in poverty don’t have access to education and they ...more
Jan 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A huge thank you to the author and Pajama Press for sharing a copy of GIRL OF THE SOUTHERN SEA with #bookportage. I loved THE THEORY OF HUMMINGBIRDS, so I was very pumped when Michelle offered to send her new book my way. I am so, so excited about this book, and would dearly love to get it into as many hands as possible.

Nia lives in Jakarta with her father and little brother. Although she desperately wants to go to high school, her father's careless use of the family's resources makes it impossi
Abby Johnson
Nia dreams of continuing her education but her family doesn’t have the fees for high school. When her alcoholic father is injured in a police altercation, Nia must take her family’s food cart into her own hands to put food on the table for her little brother. This is a peek inside a life of abject poverty and the story is gritty but not without hope.

Hand to readers of TRASH by Andy Mulligan or AMAL UNBOUND by Aisha Saaed.
Phinn McKeon
Nov 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book, it is a upsetting tale of female power and that you should follow your own dreams and not someone elses. The main character is a 14 year old girl living in Indonesia, named Nia, the longs to go to high school to become an author, which has always been her and her mothers dream since she was little, but in Indonesia free public school only goes from elementary school to middle school, then you have to pay for high school. Her and her parents lived a minimalistic life in ...more
Feb 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
A beautiful eye-catching cover but the thing that the book called to me about is its setting. It is set in Jakarta (capital of Indonesia) which was where I was born. I also spent my first 15 years there so I am mostly excited in being able to reminisce about my childhood and maybe also to be able to share with my own children, what it was like.

I am embarrassed to admit that I'm not familiar with this particular mythology of Dewi Kadita. It is possible though that I've just forgotten a lot of the
This story begins with Nia living in poverty with her father, who drinks, and her little brother. They are living in a shanty town in Jakarta, Indonesia. Nia is very intelligent, but intelligence does not pay the school fees, so she is forced to drop out of school.

Nia's mother died in childbirth, and her father mourns in his own way, which is drinking all their earnings away.

This story seemed so familiar, a young girl who is denied education, because of poverty. It is a sad state of affairs.

Molly Dettmann
Feb 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved Nia’s story and how hope and help from some unlikely people got her through such terrible times, mostly caused by her drunken father. This was an interesting look at life for a teen girl in India. The writing is very accessible, lots of simple and controlled language and short sentences throughout, but the topics and what Nia dealt with were mature enough for a teen to get into.
Oct 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nia is an amazing representation of the things that some girls are going through to get an education. Nia is a 14 year old girl living in the slums of Jakarta, Indonesia and her life could be better. She doesn’t have enough money to pay for high school so she works at home. Her mother died tragically giving birth to her baby brother Rudi. Her father works at a fried banana stand in the market, but spends his money on alcohol instead of food for his family. Bapak, her father, leaves suddenly, mak ...more
Michelle Kadarusman's Girl of the Southern Sea is an empowering narrative about fourteen-year-old Nia's indomitable drive to forge her own destiny despite societal constraints and the lack of familial resources. The addition of a map, a glossary, and the Legend of Nyai Roro Kidul (Dewi Kadita) furthers the reader's understanding of place and culture.

Denise Goodkey
Nov 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book to my granddaughter. She says it is the best thing I have ever read to her. It is supposed to be for young teens. It does give a North American child a taste of another country where life is a lot harder and things ( like education for 12 years ) is taken for granted.
Could you imagine having your life mapped out for you and you have no control over it? Nia's life is spiraling out of control, she is forced to live a life she doesn't want, and decisions are being made for her. At age fourteen, Nia has had to grow up way too fast. Her mother passed away just after giving birth to Nia's little brother. Nia's father has never recovered from her death and he spends most of his time and their money drinking. Nia has had to raise her little brother all by herself in ...more
Ms. Yingling
May 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Public library copy

Nia lives in Jakarta, Indonesia with her father, who runs a fried banana cart, and her brother, Rudi, whose birth led to their mother's death. Her father drinks excessively, often taking the money needed for rent on their shack or for food. Nia no longer goes to school, since the family does not have the fees. She works around the home and helps her father with the banana cart. When she is taking the rent to the landlord, she is involved in a bad bus accident and is the only o
Joyce Grant
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Michelle Kadarusman beautifully portrays the fierce, brave and practical Nia as she navigates through the choppy waters of her life's challenges. A drunken father, a near-fatal minibus crash and harrowing treatment at the hands of some of the people around her. Kadarusman elegantly and respectfully describes the Jakarta slums in a way that is visceral, so we can see, smell and almost touch it. The author depicts challenging events with an even hand, always showing how Nia's strength can also be ...more
Mar 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So good, the kind of book you want to shove into people's hands and insist they read. ...more
Michelle Kadarusman
Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
So very proud this book is nominated for the 2019 Governor General's Award for Young People's Literature. A portion of proceeds will support @PlanCanada's Because I Am A Girl campaign. ...more
Storytime With Stephanie
Michelle Kadarusman is one of my favourite middle grade authors. Her writing is so timely and beautiful and feature strong female main characters. Girl of the Southern Sea is an incredibly impactful story of Nia who is growing up in Jakarta, Indonesia without a mother and with a father who is struggling with the loss of his wife.

Nia is a bright creative fourteen year old who not only keeps up her studies even though she can no longer attend school but also cares for her younger brother and helps
Ibu Jaga grunts. “You know the difference between right and wrong. Sometimes telling a lie is the right thing; most times it is wrong. Sometimes superstitions are harmless, other times it is wrong. Sometimes superstitions are harmless, other times they hurt and deceive people. She drills her bony finger into my chest. “You decide, in here, what is right and what is wrong.” (Pg. 159)

A selection from my huge ALA 2019 DC Conference book haul that I stood in line for to get signed..—ah an autograph
Fourteen-year-old Nia, a talented writer, storyteller, and student, dreams of attending school and making a better life for herself and her young brother, Rudi. But as their father continues to drink heavily and spend the money the family needs for the basic necessities, she sees her dreams growing further and further out of reach. She can no longer afford to go to school and must go to work. As it is, living in the slums of Jakarta, Indonesia, is challenging enough for anyone, but saddled with ...more
Kristin Crouch
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
*Thank you to the author for sharing a review copy with #collabookation.*
Girl of the Southern Sea takes us to Jakarta, into the life of Nia, a young girl who must find a way to sustain her family while her father works to ruin it.
Heartbreaking in struggle, the reader understands Nia's unending dedication to her brother and the memory of her mother. Every day, as she gets her brother off to school, she is reminded of the dream she had to abandon. Through much difficulty, Nia never loses faith in
Girl of the Southern Sea is about fourteen year-old Nia, a young girl who lives in the slums of Jakarta. Her father is a drunk and she is not only forced to take care of her younger brother, but drop out of school because they can’t afford the fees for her to continue school. Nia dreams of returning to school and becoming a writer. She is known for telling fantastic stories about a princess from the sea and shares many of these tales throughout the book. When her father is thrown in jail, Nia ha ...more
May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nia is such an intelligent, ambitious, and courageous girl who is determined to make a better life for herself, refusing to accept that her schooling is over. Girl of the Southern Sea is an incredible, honest novel written by Michelle Kadarusman, well-deserving of it’s Junior Library Guild gold standard selection, that follows Nia’s journey through some difficult situations in the slums of Jakarta and her unyielding efforts to see to it that she saves enough money to attend high school. She’s no ...more
Stephanie Bange
Feb 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An incredible peek into the life of a third world young teenage girl, whose destiny can turn on the whim of those around her.

Growing up in extreme poverty in Jakarta, Indonesia, Nia is the bond that holds together her family -- her younger brother and alcoholic father. She sees an escape from penury if she can only attend high school in order to become a writer. When she is sole survivor of a horrible bus crash, a stranger steps in to help her cash in on other's superstitious beliefs. The get-ri
Jill Jemmett
Jul 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a fantastic story! It was exciting and suspenseful.

This was a fast paced story. I almost read all of it in one sitting. There were many impactful scenes, such as a bus crash and a fight at the market. Even though these were scenes where bad things happened, they would make an impact on the reader because of how sudden and life changing they were for the characters. It made for a thrilling story.

This book deals with some serious issues such as child marriage and the lack of available edu
Liam Coffee
Nov 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Girl of the Southern Sea, written by Michelle Kadarusman

The book is about Nia, a girl in Australia raising her younger brother and helping her father with his fried banana cart. The story follows Nia as she survives a minibus accident, and uses this to help boost her fried banana sales. When things go sour, her father disappears and Nia has to find him, all while raising her younger brother. At the same time, Nia is exploring writing, and has a fictional story that follows the Queen of the Sout
Erin Caracappa
There have been a few YA realistic fiction books that I have read where young people in dire circumstances that I don’t have any frame of reference for. I’ve never been to Indonesia. I’ve never even really seen the poverty described in this book, even from afar.

This story, like the others I’ve read, leaves a dissonant feeling inside me. The story is harrowing. Nia overcomes so much, is burdened with so much more than any 14-year-old should. But she comes out the other side.

Still, her situation
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Girl of the Southern Sea is a fantastically-written, unapologetically-gritty story of the hardships that many must survive around the world.
Nia is a storyteller, and longs to be a real writer one day. But living in the slums of Jakarta, Indonesia, there is little hope of escape. At 9 years old, Nia had to begin caring for her baby brother when her mother died in childbirth. Now at 14, Nia takes care of Rudi and their alcoholic father while dreaming of going to high school and having the opportu
Jun 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received this from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest opinion.

Nia is a wonderful character living in poverty in Indonesia. Her alcoholic father sells her family's banana fritters at a cart in the local market, but he is unreliable at best, and it is fourteen year old Nia who is left to run the household and care for her younger brother. Her dream is to go to high school so that she can become a famous writer, but it is a goal that doesn't seem to be attainable in her giv
Jul 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book appealed to me as it reminded me of Everlasting Nora, a similar sort of story. I enjoyed this story just as well and can't recommend it enough as a book to both older children (think 6th grade up) and teens. I have recommended it to friends. It's a hard scrabble life for Nia who dreams of being a writer, but so many obstacles are in her way- a father who's a drunk, a younger brother, poverty....You find your self rooting for Nia immediately. I just wanted to see her beat the odds so ba ...more
Oct 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Girl of the Southern Sea is the best kind of book for children/young adults: well written, magically evocative of time, place and people, honest, never patronising or sentimental, and educational. And its heroine Nia gives us hope and a role model for our daughters and young women everywhere in her determination, intelligence, and decency, while remaining a real girl with flaws and insecurities. I foresee GOTSS will be around for a long time.
Nov 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved the writing and how the characters were so relatable even if they made poor choices. Insight into a difficult way of life for girls who live in the slums of Southeast Asia. I admired Nia’s strength and convictions as she works to save money to go back to school. With difficult issues such as alcoholism, living in poverty, and arranged marriages, this book dealt with them beautifully. I also liked Nia’s fairy tales about the Sea Queen and her devotion to her little brother.
« previous 1 3 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Play Book Tag: [✈] Girl of the Southern Sea ★★★★ 3 13 Feb 03, 2021 05:53PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Harvey Comes Home
  • Mya's Strategy to Save the World
  • The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster
  • A Royal Guide to Monster Slaying
  • Camp Average
  • Sara and the Search for Normal
  • The Ghost Collector
  • Footprints on the Moon
  • Dog Driven
  • Broken Strings
  • A Boy Is Not a Bird
  • Ember and the Ice Dragons
  • Missing Mike
  • Pickles vs the Zombies
  • Bloom
  • The Vegetable Museum
  • Efrén Divided
  • Pie in the Sky
See similar books…
Michelle's first middle grade novel, THE THEORY OF HUMMINGBIRDS (2017) was nominated for the OLA Silver Birch Express, MYRCA Sundogs and SYRCA Diamond Willow awards. Her novel, GIRL OF THE SOUTHERN SEA, was a 2019 Governor General's Award finalist, USBBY Outstanding Book and Freeman Book Award Honorable Mention. Her new novel, MUSIC FOR TIGERS, released in 2020.

Michelle grew up in Melbourne, Austr

News & Interviews

Happy Women's History Month! One of the undisputedly good things about modern scholarship is that women’s history is finally getting its due....
65 likes · 11 comments