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Best At It Paperback – 5 February 2021

4.7 out of 5 stars 80 ratings

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Review

“Rahul is a compelling protagonist... Hand this to middle grade readers who are navigating changing social dynamics as they come of age.”
-School Library Journal

“An emotional, earnest, and genuine journey to self-love that had me crying, laughing, and cheering. Hilarious and heartbreaking and truly touching—I wanted nothing more than to reach through the pages and give Rahul a big hug for being brave, determined, and the best that he can be.”
-Kacen Callender, Stonewall Award-winning author of Hurricane Child

“This funny, uplifting story about identity… sends a powerful, positive message to young readers about choosing self-acceptance.”
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A funny, fun, big-hearted book filled with characters to adore. Rahul’s journey toward learning to stand up for himself and finding his place in the world is achingly emotionally authentic and deeply resonant. This novel is a joy from beginning to end.”
-Anne Ursu, award-winning author of Breadcrumbs and The Lost Girl

“The protagonist’s devastatingly honest voice pulls readers deeply into a fast-paced journey... heartbreakingly authentic.”
-Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Exuberant... Every middle schooler will find themselves in this book.”
-Soman Chainani, New York Times bestselling author of the School for Good and Evil series

“An impressive first novel…wholly engaging.”
-ALA Booklist (starred review)

From the Back Cover

From award-winning actor Maulik Pancholy comes a hilarious and heartfelt middle grade debut about a gay Indian American boy coming into his own.

Rahul Kapoor is heading into seventh grade in a small town in Indiana. The start of middle school is making him feel increasingly anxious, so his favourite person in the whole world, his grandfather, Bhai, gives him some well-meaning advice: Find one thing you're really good at and become the BEST at it.

Those four little words sear themselves into Rahul's brain. While he's not quite sure what that special thing is, he is convinced that once he finds it, bullies like Brent Mason will stop torturing him at school. And he won't be worried about staring too long at his classmate Justin Emery. With his best friend, Chelsea, by his side, Rahul is ready to crush this challenge ... But what if he discovers he isn't the best at anything?

Funny, charming, and incredibly touching, this is a story about friendship, family, and the courage it takes to live your truth.

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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Harper Children's (5 February 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 336 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9354220118
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9354220111
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 300 g
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 20 x 14 x 4 cm
  • Country of Origin ‏ : ‎ India
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.7 out of 5 stars 80 ratings

Customer reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5
80 global ratings
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Top reviews from India

Reviewed in India on 10 June 2021
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5.0 out of 5 stars Unique and dense in many ways
By Sahil Pradhan on 10 June 2021
Rahul's vacations are over and he is moving to seventh grade. But even a new class year won't let him out of the sight of bullies like Brent Mason. Rahul's school life becomes a puddle of mess when on one side he has bullies who make him detest school and while on the other there is Justin Emery, the perfect crush and his best friend Chelsea.

Pancholy's YA novel charts the life of this Indian-American kid who needs to come to terms with accepting himself so as to understand himself, in the process he needs to let go of his shame of being from a culture that is overtly flamboyant in ways, he has to accept that he is gay and that he can love and he whoever he wants to be, he has to accept that he should do what pleases him and be the best at it.

Rahul is a complex character, though in a middle grade book it doesn't seem so when it is dipped with joyous language and cute scenes, but deep down when you analyse you see that Rahul is a character of grey shades. There is nothing wrong with Rahul, not that he will essentially agree to this but there is not. For him, it is his will to excel at something to showcase his talent for the world becomes the root cause of his issues, his anger, his sadness, his OCD too.

For immigrants, to find a place of belonging is what anchors the nostalgia. Trying to find your belonging is a difficult thing for those who take a piece of the culture they were born in deep inside their heart but are not able to express it in its fullest. Part of this soul searing search for meaning, comes with a burden of internalized hatred towards the root cause of this, something that Rahul needs to come to terms with.

Homophobic bullying is another underlying theme in the book, where bullies like Brent exist in real life and make life a living hell for people like Rahul. When Brent almost forces Rahul into coming out, I wished I could hug him tight and tell him that it's ok. But he had Chelsea, he had Justin, he had his parents, all of whom accepted him.

It is indeed love at the end that wins. Rahul finds peace with himself, his heritage, his talent for Maths and his love for Justin. Pancholy's story about being different is incredible.
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Reviewed in India on 18 May 2021

Top reviews from other countries

Crystal
5.0 out of 5 stars sensitive and sweet
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 4 March 2020
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Ruben Ortega
5.0 out of 5 stars Fácil de leer
Reviewed in Spain on 25 July 2020
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E Tyler
5.0 out of 5 stars Why This Book is About YOU (Even If It Isn't)
Reviewed in the United States on 5 November 2019
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5.0 out of 5 stars Why This Book is About YOU (Even If It Isn't)
Reviewed in the United States on 5 November 2019
I met the author briefly at a book festival where I heard him speak on a panel of four. At the end of a full day of hearing from many capable authors about their work, I left with the intention of buying just one book: "The Best At It."

I am not a pre-teen myself. And while I’ve mentored teens and young adults for decades, I am not currently in the mix with middle-school kids. So why this book? The fact is that I found Maulik Pancholy so genuine and compelling as a speaker and real person—so passionate about this particular book project—that I couldn't help but follow my curiosity and see how he conveyed himself in writing.

I'm pleased to say that I found the book a delightfully accurate reflection of its author: genuine, compelling, passionate.

At the time of purchase, the bold-type header of the synopsis describes this book as a middle grade story “about a gay Indian American boy coming into his own.” And that is true. Yet at the same time—it isn’t.

I’ll illustrate what I mean by analogy. It seems "The Hobbit" was a favorite of both Maulik’s and mine growing up. I felt deeply connected to both Bilbo Baggins and his quest. But was Tolkien’s story “about a reluctant hobbit from The Shire who goes on a quest to save Middle Earth”? Again, yes—but then again, not really.

As far as I was concerned as a reader, it was about ME. I didn’t need to have hairy feet to feel self-conscious about my body. Nor did I need Gandolph’s call in order to experience the gnawing feeling that there must be more to life. I wasn’t thrust into keeping company with dwarves; yet I knew all too well the struggles of fitting in with people who felt very different from myself. With neither Gollum nor a mystical ring, I understood trial and the struggle of trying to do the right thing when faced with temptation; and though I never had to face Smaug, I had plenty of my own dragon’s lurking.

Apply the same mindset to “The Best At It.” Does it matter whether Bilbo or Rahul happen to be my age? Whether the culture, language and customs to which I’m being introduced are those of Middle Earth or of an Indian family from Indiana? Does it matter whether the person we most trust is a wizard or a wise old “Bhai”? Whether the character’s traveling companions are displaced dwarves or math league misfits? Whether the “Big Bad” is a scaly behemoth or the bully next door? Whether the quest is saving a fictional world—or saving ourselves?

That's all to say—I highly recommend "The Best At It" to YOU, regardless of whether or not your personal details happen to match those of the protagonist, Rahul, in every regard. No matter who you are as a reader, I believe you’ll see yourself in the pages of this story. You’ll get wrapped up in it. You'll feel it for reasons all your own.

And that is as every good story should be.
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13 people found this helpful
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Avani Patel
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read this book!
Reviewed in the United States on 7 November 2019
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5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read this book!
Reviewed in the United States on 7 November 2019
I absolutely loved this book! I was so good that I bought 5 more books to gift to my nieces and nephews. This book is as equally as good for adults to read as it is for children (3rd grade and up). This book addresses several topics including diversity and inclusion, bullying, trying to fit in, and growing up as a first generation American. As I read this book, I reflected back at my own childhood experiences and wish I had a book like this to read when I was in middle school. There also issues in the book that I could relate to as an adult, like members of your own family (or a family friend) not making you feel accepted. Maulik did a wonderful job in his debut novel, I hope he is planning on writing a sequel. I would love to know what Rahul is up to during his high school years.
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5 people found this helpful
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Christina Phillips Hemperly
5.0 out of 5 stars Enrich your mind and heart by reading this book!
Reviewed in the United States on 30 October 2019
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2 people found this helpful
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