Finally getting through my NetGalley reading, though also continuing with Reading Ireland and Reading Wales, here’s an entertaining YA read from campaigner and author Nikesh Shukla (he edited the Good Immigrant books and has also written “Coconut Unlimited” which I’m fairly sure is somewhere on my Kindle.

Nikesh Shukla – “Stand Up”

(30 January 2023, NetGalley)

‘Come on, dude, I’m trying to work. I’m not a walking encyclopaedia of India, just cos I’m brown. I don’t ask you whie guy shit like why Kanye is actually a proper artiste or why Mad Men’s sexism and racism is actually cool or why railways were a good exchange for all the resource- and asset-stripping the British empire did, right? You can’t just go around assuming people like me will drop everything to answer your facile questions that you’ve decided we must know the answers to because of the colour of our skin. I would tell you what word we use to describe that behaviour but I’m actually just wondering, seeing as it’s my job to do so, that your wine is looking a little low. Would you like another bottle?’

Madhu is 17 and her Kenyan Indian parents have been running a shop since shortly after they arrived in England, although they’ve moved away from living over it into a flat and Madhu works at a pizza place rather than in the shop. She misses her older sister, whose story we gradually discover, and she’s feeling pressured to apply for law at university when what she really wants to do is stand-up comedy.

When she tries an open mic night for the first time, Madhu freezes and panics, but then her take-down of a friend’s ex, filmed and shared without her permission goes viral and she’s invited to go on her comedy idol’s TV show. However, idols can become nemeses and when, after practising and learning with the support of enemy-to-friend Jazz (there’s a fair bit of not judging by first appearances as Jazz’z mum seems awful at first but comes out with some good stuff) and an inclusive cafe locally, the experience with Kareena isn’t what she expected, and that “you can’t be what you can’t see” role models can also be super-protective of their unicorn status, she can either buckle down and do what she’s supposed to do or push through for her dreams.

Set in Bristol, a nice change from London-based books, and full of realistic micro- and macro-aggressions, friendships and struggle, it’s a nicely done novel, with learning points but a good dose of humour.

Thank you to Hachette Children’s Group for selecting me to read this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review. “Stand Up” was published on 2 March 2023.