With the bestselling novels Never Say Never and Written in the Stars behind her, 19 Till I Die is Anjali Kirpalani's tribute to her own salad days. This is a booklist review of Anjali's latest novel, on The Times Blog.
The official Amazon blurb for Anjali's new book reads thusly:
For Zaid from Durban, it was heartbreak. For Fiona, who loves New Delhi, it had always been a dream. Rachna needs this chance to step out of Australia and her comfort zone. Tia from Mumbai sees it as a ticket away from her over-protective parents. The four find themselves at the University of Guelph in Canada. Adventure awaits, and a chance at love lingers amidst the crowds - in the halls, at the bars, on the dancefloor. Some of them will find it. But, as with such powerful life-altering things as love, it's not going to be easy. It's too late to turn back to the drab, safe and predictable lives they left behind. Might as well buckle up and hold on tight as they brace themselves for the ride of their lives.
The book, being pitched largely as YA fiction, is a tale of four millennials at the formidable crossing of post-pubescent hormones and early onset adulthood syndrome. The protagonists Zaid, Fiona, Rachna and Tia, each marked by a unique emotional signature, find themselves at a Canadian university. Thereon, life starts unravelling in the way that it usually does, for dreamers. Kirpalani has done a wonderful job of depicting how every character eventually learns to rubbish away at issues that had once appeared weighty enough to tie them down for life, focusing on what lies ahead instead.
The narrative is marked with a healthy dose of nostalgia, especially for people who have had a general sense of exposure towards things like a 'quarter life crisis', as aptly quoted by one of her characters. What is most interesting, however, is the evolution of once-adolescent beings into semi-wise, semi-conscient adults through an incredibly alien cultural interface.
A once-whiny and overtly vain character in the book eventually grows up to muster the courage necessary to put the words 'My life is a joke' down in a letter she writes to someone she admires. There's an element of transition that is largely ignored in most paperback novels of this day and age, but Kirpalani's characters have a way of being realistically prone to emotional growth. And it works beautifully.