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3.84  ·  Rating details ·  1,591 ratings  ·  262 reviews
On October 31, 1984, Indira Gandhi is gunned down by two Sikh bodyguards. The murder sparks riots in Delhi and for three days Sikh families are targeted and killed in retribution for the Prime Minister’s death. It is into this chaos that sixteen-year-old Maya and her Sikh father, Amar, arrive from their home in Canada. India’s political instability is the backdrop and cata ...more
Hardcover, 528 pages
Published March 31st 2011 by Razorbill (first published March 1st 2011)
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Average rating 3.84  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,591 ratings  ·  262 reviews

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Jun 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Jul 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Free verse is not sometime I gravitate toward, but this story is so real and so well written that I fell right into it. One of the best books I've ever read.
Jessica J
Jun 30, 2016 rated it liked it
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
Book Concierge
Maya and her father are going from Canada to New Dehli to spread her mother’s ashes. They arrive, however, on the same day as Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is assassinated by two of her guards. Maya and her father are separated in the riots that ensue, and she must disguise herself and ultimately rely on Sandeep, a boy she’s just met, to keep her safe and see that she gets home.

This young adult novel is told entirely in verse, making for a very fast read. It includes some pretty serious matter,
Apr 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Deanna Day
Aug 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Kevin Kuehn
Oct 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Dana Al-Basha |  دانة الباشا
I haven't read a novel told in verse for so long, this came as a pleasant surprise, not what I expected but I'm enjoying it so far. I imagine Dev Patel as Sandeep and Freida Pinto as Maya.

Māyā means illusion or more accurately a delusion. Though given two names as a daughter for two parents from different religions, she always favored the name her Hindu mother has given her "Maya". Her Sikh name given by her father is "Jiva" which means soul.

Maya is a Canadian, with an Indian family, a Hindu mot
Apr 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 all ...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. ...more
Feb 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
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
Apr 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
May 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A bright pink cover kept catching my eye whenever I'd be in the library at work, and eventually I went over, picked it up, and discovered Karma.

Even as an English Ed major, I've never had a strong love for reading poetry for a variety of reasons (with some exceptions), so I've typically avoided books written in verse. I think I automatically assume that I'm going to have to decipher a bunch of figurative language and other stuff I don't really need to mess with in the same manner when reading a
Margo Tanenbaum
Jun 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Priyanka Champaneri
Aug 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
It's a good thing that I didn't realize this was a "novel in verse" until I brought the book home from the library, because then I almost certainly would have passed it over, convinced that a book with a title like "Karma," a Bollywood-ish cover, and the additional supposed gimmick of being a giant poem was bound to be awful.

And it could have been....but it wasn't.

What saves this book is everything contained within the covers - the writing, the story, the characters, and the alternating POVs.

Apr 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Arthur Pengerbil
Feb 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Brooke Cheyenne
Feb 05, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Mar 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Teens and up
I loved this novel. At first, I was a little wary for the "in verse" part wasn't quite a Geeta-book. However, after reading the first few pages I was hooked. This is a story about a massacre that took place nearly 30 years ago in India. After Indira Gandhi's death, there was turmoil in India and thousands died. In the midst of all this was a young Canadian-Indian, Maya, who can't find her father and becomes lost in this unknown land. Along comes Sandeep and they fall in love. What made this stor ...more
Jan 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
M.B. Mulhall
Jul 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 way is ...more
I give this one points for an exciting plot that will keep people turning pages, and for tackling a specific time and place in history that is hard to find in teen lit. Ultimately, I found it disappointing that the characters were so stereotypical, and that all of the Indian population, with only one or two exceptions, were portrayed as a cruel people, prone to terrorism at worst and apathy at best as a whole.
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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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