Beyond School centres upon the weeks leading up to 17 year-old Shail’s final board exams, as his world becomes a pressure cooker and the weight of exams sends him fleeing rebelliously in the other direction. Along with Shail’s journey from boyhood to manhood, beyond School vividly weaves between the narratives if four main characters, seamlessly uniting the past and the present of Shail and his mentor Gladys, in a story that is honest, funny, heartbreaking and ultimately incredibly human.
From a plethora of books, there are only a handful which grip us right from the first paragraph. ‘Beyond School’ does this.
The author deserves accolades for her spontaneous and natural writing as despite giving a mere glimpse into the life of her protagonist Shail – a 17 years old and every other character in the story, her book is far richer and impactful than verbose chapters churned out to increase the page count . A remarkable feat.
I was not exactly raring to read about a 17 years old’s conflicts, girlfriend stress, a desire to be in Manchester United and all that jazz, but, the first chapter caught me off- guard making me realise that ‘Beyond School’ is going to be an emotional and understanding journey with less words and more undercurrents.
In a book divided into 36 chapters and of 200 pages, the author has dealt with almost every issue under the sun from Board exams –
a BIG thing in an average Indian kid’s life,
the girl-friend – the indispensable yet most suppressed topic in the life of the same person,
the issue of mobile phones and gadget usage ,
the lack of communication between child and parents,
the role of a mentor teacher
changing social norms,
need of understanding by parents
The anxieties of parents, the pressures of teens and more.
The narration is breezy and seamless; the writing simple, spontaneous, easy to read yet not colloquial.
Characterization need special mention as considering the page-count there seems to be a lot of people here yet, the author had created honest, in-depth versions and very cunningly the reader is dragged into their lives on pretext of chapters named Ma, Dad, Father Spy… so you feel as if you are reading about Shail’s Ma, Shail’s dad while in reality, you are getting the slice of life from Urmila (the Ma)and Sushil Abhyankar’s ( the Dad) life!
What really worked for me is that it’s written with sensitivity … Every word exudes softness towards children, their conflicts, desires, the fragility of life, their dreams and relationships.
It deals with the psychological aspect of every action with utmost clarity and stresses upon not to be judgemental.
It is a Must Read for parents and children alike …which makes it for ALL. Trust me, you’d be enriched, if not, at least it will remind you of certain beautiful aspects which you already know yet tend to forget.
PS.sst On page 14, Shail’s mother is introduced as ‘dark but beautiful’ which I felt ought to be ‘dark and beautiful’ ..also it was the author who was was introducing her to the readers, so it can’t be ignored as a character’s impression of her.
Though I am not rolling up my sleeves for a battle, but it did made me ponder.
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