By Riya Bopanna, Grade 7
When the World Went Dark by Jane De Suza, shortlisted for the Neev Book Award 2022 in the Junior Readers category is a heartfelt novel that explores the feeling of loss from the perspective of a lively nine year-old girl.
Swara is not happy. Her country is in lockdown and she can’t even step out to meet her favourite person in the world, Pitter Pati. And one day Pitter Pati is gone. Just like that. Oh no! What’s Swara going to do? Form a detective squad with her friends and follow the clues that Pitter Patti left her, of course! But soon, Swara realises this mystery isn’t as easy as it looks when she stumbles upon strange happenings in the sari shop next door. Will she be able to solve the mystery and be able to find Pitter Pati?
There is no one way to understand the feelings of loss and grief. The book When the World Went Dark deeply, yet tactfully dives into these feelings with rich context and thought. The author has crafted beautiful dialogue exchanges and profound reflections that lead the audience through an emotional roller coaster along with Swara who goes from feeling confused, angry, determined, and sad, to hopeful. The hope of finding light during dark times.
Swara was easy to like as her determination, unique voice and funny antiques left me chuckling after each page. I love how as the book progresses, she learns to understand and come to terms with her loss and finds the courage to keep going while helping her family, friends and community along the way.
This book weaves simple language beautifully into vivid images. The conversational tone is a sure hook for younger readers because which 9-year-old can resist when the main character substitutes the word “very” with a V (For example, Swara would say VIrresistible)?
I would recommend this book to readers aged 8-11 years. While it would be meaningful for kids of any age, I feel that the language and general plot are directed more at this age group.
This book acts as a shining light when the world goes dark. Or as Swara would put it this book is VAmazing. : )