Book Review #3: For the Joy of Sharing

‘What Maya Saw’ by Shabnam Minwalla

By Pihu Saraff
Grade 9 Student
Bangalore, India

My name is Pihu and I study in grade 9. I love writing regarding things I feel passionately about. I also enjoy reading and watching movies. I would like to pursue journalism when I’m older as I possess a strong desire to make a difference in the world.

‘What Maya Saw’ by Shabnam Minwalla

“What Maya Saw” is a compelling book to read, following an extraordinarily intelligent yet socially awkward middle schooler through a journey of mystery, friendship and self-discovery. Written by Shabnam Minwalla, it is an enigmatic piece of literature, and keeps the reader on the edge of their seat.

When the gifted Maya steps into St. Paul’s college for the first time for a summer holiday program, she has no idea what this mystical, magical, haunting location has in store for her, and how she will soon find her life consumed by the decades of secrets hidden behind the college’s ageing walls. Set in Mumbai, the novel includes wonderful snippets of the history of the city, and its architecture and transports the reader to a blistering hot summer in this city.

Upon the beginning of her summer holidays, after completing the eighth grade, Maya is beyond excitement to spend a leisurely summer for the first time, filled with shopping, sleepovers and movies with her friends – things she wanted to experience but could not due to her shy disposition and extremely academically driven spirit. However, all of her expectations come crashing down when she finds out she has been invited to a prestigious summer program at St. Paul’s college regarding the history of her city – Bombay; a rare opportunity that nobody in their right mind would refuse. Maya expects it to be a mundane affair until she begins to see things, terrifyingly unusually things, things that no one else was seeing – shadows.

Soon the truth prevails, and Maya finds herself to be one of the chosen ones, to protect the well-guarded secret that the shadows are after, and will do anything to get their hands on. Get ready for a thrilling ride featuring teachers with questionable intentions, a few friends and many foes, tidbits of pop-culture references and rich descriptions of the equally decadent history of Mumbai.

The writing style really stood out for me. Shabnam Minwalla’s understanding of teenage girls is truly unmatched and I found myself connecting a lot of Maya’s character and thought processes to that of my own. The text is engaging, featuring various literary devices and figures of speech yet easily understandable for younger readers. I loved reading about the history of the fictional St. Paul’s college, based on the author’s alma mater, St Xavier’s college, feeling as if I was really walking the halls of St. Paul’s alongside Maya.

This book gets five stars from me. It is very well-written and offers not just an engaging story but also so much relatability to its characters. Although having fictional aspects, the storyline very much mirrors real life, truly taking one to a balmy summer day spent engrossed in all sorts of adventures.

By Pihu Saraff
Grade 9 Student, Bangalore, India


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