Anita and Me by Meera Syal is actually one of those books where I found out it existed by seeing the film adaptation first. I am sometimes a little weary of reading books after I’ve already seen the film because film adaptations tend to alter somewhat from the novels themselves and I enjoyed the film thoroughly and didn’t want to end up being disappointed with it once I had finished the book.
It has actually been sat on my bookshelf for about three years, never seemingly managing to get around to it; there always seemed to be books I wanted to read more. I’m not that ashamed I left it so long to read, not because the book is bad in any way but at the moment I had the time to actually sit and enjoy the book and take my time with it.
The story of Meena is a funny, sad, addictive page turner that sings of Indian culture all with a Brummie accent. She’s a girl that longs for fish fingers and chips rather than chapattis. At the beginning of the novel we find Meena longing to shed her ‘Indian’ coloured skin and fit in with Anita, the blonde haired ‘wench’ from next door. As we read on however, it is so inspiring to see Meena grow into herself, accept her roots and actually learn to love and appreciate just how different she is. It’s a teenager’s novel at heart, set in the 60’s where working class men are laid off and women are verbally announcing their sexuality to the world.
Syal writes with so much wit and humour that it’s hard not to fall in love with Meena’s voice. She has the exact attitude that makes young adults so funny and unique, but just as quickly; Syal can turn the story on its head and evoke emotion from the reader. It is one of those few novels that includes it all. Love, anger, racism, community, sex, culture, religion are to name but a few.
It can be hard to like central characters that at the beginning lie and steal unashamedly without guilt, but with Meena, you feel for her predicament, being stuck bang in the middle of a society in the midst of a social change, but also stuck in the body she was born with. It is a heart warming tale, one I urge all fans of YA to read. I haven’t read many foreign culture stories before, not because I don’t like them, but just because I am more of a fantasy fan, but it helps to learn more about the Indian culture, despite being set in Tollington via Birmingham.
You can buy Anita and Me from Amazon