Review of Thirst

Thirst Thirst
by Varsha Bajaj
Middle School     Paulsen/Penguin    192 pp.         g
7/22     978-0-593-35439-1     $17.99

Growing up in the slums around Mumbai, India, seventh grader Minni has been raised to follow the rules and stay out of trouble, but she can’t keep quiet when she spots injustice. She dreams of going to college but keeps bumping up against the realities of poverty that make that nearly impossible. The narrative focus is on Mumbai’s unstable, often non-potable water supply and the lack of indoor plumbing in Minni’s neighborhood. When her brother spies the “water mafia” siphoning water illegally, he is sent away for his safety, while their mother goes to the country to recover from a serious illness. This leaves Minni to obtain water and boil it, take on her mother’s job as a maid, and struggle to attend school full time. Her own sleuthing leads to a shocking conclusion about corruption and Mumbai’s water resources. Bajaj’s suspenseful novel peels back the curtain on modern-day class and caste inequities and how they create a cycle of poverty that spirals through generations. Minni’s thirst for what’s right steers the novel toward an optimistic conclusion in which one person can bring about big changes.

From the November/December 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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