A fierce, feminist, and fun middle grade fantasy graphic novel about a twelve-year-old Indian American girl named Shakti who must learn the power of her ancestral magic if she wants to save her family and town from a dangerous curse. Written by Stonewall Honor Book recipient and Lambda Literary Fellow SJ Sindu and illustrated by Nabi H. Ali.
Shakti is used to being the new girl at school. She and her two moms have moved more times than she can count. With her unborn baby brother on the way, Shakti hopes her family has found their forever home in Amherst, Massachusetts, and that she can finally make friends.
On her first day of seventh grade, she meets Xi and they bond over their shared passion for manga (and pizza with mayo). But the three meanest girls in school—Harini, Emily, and Kelly (aka “HEK”)—are determined to make life miserable for Shakti and her new friends.
When Shakti and Xi discover HEK casting spells in the woods, they fear what might happen to the other kids at school. Drawing on ancient Indian magic, Shakti seeks the aid of Durga Ma to stop HEK. But instead, Shakti accidentally conjures Kali Ma, the destroyer—Durga Ma's dangerous twin. Kali Ma punishes HEK by transforming them into monsters and curses the entire town. As more and more people begin to fall ill, including Shakti’s mom, will Shakti be able to harness her own strength, power, and empathy to save those she loves—and put an end to all the hate?
SJ Sindu is a Tamil diaspora author of two literary novels: Marriage of a Thousand Lies, which won the Publishing Triangle Edmund White Award; and Blue-Skinned Gods, which was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Sindu holds a PhD in English and Creative Writing from Florida State University and teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University and Vermont College of Fine Arts. More at sjsindu.com or @sjsindu on Twitter/Instagram.
Nabi H. Ali is a Tamil American illustrator based in Orange County, California. He is passionate about being a voice for representation in children’s media. When he’s not painting, you can find him reading poetry and studying South Asian history.
Lush and bright oil paint and graphite illustrations tell as much of the story in this graphic novel as the text, as colors and perspective shift to convey moods, memories, or religious context that would be more difficult to capture in Shakti’s first-person narration. The mythology and history of the Hindu goddesses are detailed in chapter interludes, giving them their own focus while still incorporating them into Shakti’s story. This trim graphic novel offers all the right elements of magic, school struggles, and family negotiations to satisfy young readers. — The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review)
Ali’s richly colored art teems with cultural and naturalistic patterns and texture, and immersive interludes and brief asides provide expansive context into how Shakti’s nature-based magic functions. Fiercely courageous characters and a gripping narrative further elevate this exhilarating fantastical adventure. — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Ali’s luminous, expressive, jewel-toned illustrations steal the show, highlighting the broadly diverse cast and supernatural happenings. Sindu’s protagonist lives up to the meaning of her name, “energy of the universe,” as she learns lessons about anger, balance, courage, and compassion. Powerful and enthralling. — Kirkus Reviews
In Lambda Award–winner Sindu’s first graphic novel, myth and magic illuminate a young girl’s path to self-awareness. Swirling, richly saturated illustrations by Ali convey captivating magic in both the world of Hindu legend and Shakti’s everyday world. Angled panels and dramatic perspectives ramp up tension as Shakti scrambles to undo her inadvertent chaos. This feminist fantasy affirms that all emotions are valid—and valuable—in maintaining a life of balance. — Booklist
Vibrantly illustrated by Ali, Sindu’s debut graphic novel braids Hindu mythology with the importance of family and friendship, creating an accessible book that will be of interest to many readers. — School Library Journal