Relatable, Thrilling and Tangible – Saira Zariwala Is Afraid By Shabnam Minwalla

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A teenage girl lacking self-confidence, with a history of anxiety, being constantly bullied by ‘friends’ and supported by two few real friends. Saira Zariwala afraid by Shabnam Minwalla is all about her – Saira. I know her. She is there inside me, you and everyone. The insecurities we breed.

Saira Zariwala is Afraid Review

Saira Zariwala is Afraid by Shabnam Minwalla

Saira gets a new phone. But soon the happiness of having a new gadget fades because the number she got has been used by someone else, who is astounding, who had numerous secrets and a bunch of friends with a can of worms. Without any practical support from the police, Saira decides to start her search for Aakash.
Thenceforth unfolds an eerie, nail-biting, heart-thumping set of events. The book reminded me at several places, Nancy Drew. The brave smart girl who ventures into the most dangerous circumstances to find the truth. On the contrary, Saira is brimful of insecurities. Nonetheless how she overcomes the fear can be a guide and eye-opener to many teenagers out there who would be fighting similar demons.

Saira Zariwala is Afraid by Shabnam Minwalla

The narrative is the protagonist

The plot is guided and kept in that by the style of narration. Quirky anecdotes of Saira would pull the readers to sail in a shaky boat anchored with humour amidst unrelenting rain and storms. Saira defines the people around her in a character craft that reminded me of Arundhati Roy.
I can go on and on about the book because this is one piece of literature that made me lose my sleep over it. I read and re-read the passages to fully imbibe the beauty of it.
Saira’s soliloquy proves the author’s craft. Starting from the character portrayal of her brother Tariq the narrative keeps the plot on leash. There is a judgemental self-obsessed friend in everyone’s life, whom we endure despite knowing that they despise us. Or is it just me and Saira.
Saira’s obsession with Siddharth of class ten and nearly tangible apathy towards his interest in her is the passive portrayal of the inherent insecurities of the character.

The suspense that is never lost

The suspense behind the mission of Aakash and intermittent jerks with an explosion, a psychopath listener, and the bunch of celebrities in Aaakash’s circle whom Saira acquaints through he chats in the Whatsapp groups holds the interest of the readers till the end. The revelation in the climax comes out like a bolt from the dark. Coming to think of it, I think it could have been guessed if it was a visual media presentation like movie or web series. Despite the impeccable suspense, the sequences in the climax however succumbed to the overworked cliche and hence dipped the graph slightly.
Having piqued the towering interest of the readers, this comes as a disappointment though not a major one.
Overall the book is a thoroughly enjoyable thriller. Despite being Children’s fiction, it endears the adults alike.
I am in love with Saira Zariwala. Thank you, Harpercollins for this copy.

Author profile

Shabnam Minwalla writes books for children.
These include:
`The Six Spellmakers of Dorabji Street’
`The Strange Haunting of Model High School’
`The Shy Supergirl’
`Lucky Girl’
`What Maya Saw’
`Nimmi’s Spectabulous Schooldays’
`When Jiya Met Urmila’
Her short stories are included in numerous anthologies. She is also a journalist and columnist with a number of Indian newspapers and magazines. She is a former Senior Assistant Editor with the Times of India in Mumbai.
Shabnam did her Masters in Journalism at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
She did her Bachelors in Economics, Statistics and Mathematics at St Xavier’s College in Mumbai
This review has been featured in Twinkl, as part of their To Be Read List 2022: Top Book Picks From Authors and Bloggers article.’
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