Sold as Seen (2005), by Bali Rai

Part of the Tales from Devana High series of little-more-than chapter books, this trite little story tells of Dean (African British) and his friend Jit (Indo-British), and the borderline criminal activities they combine with their school life.  There is the requisite bully, eventually cowed by Dean’s older brother; the expected attraction to the girls in their social group (although this is fairly decently handled); and more than the required amount of rude language and teen attitude.  The characters seem to try to justify teen rebellion and disrespect as not only normal but unavoidable and admirable in a way that, honestly, would have offended me even as a teen. This story sits on the shelf completely incongruously beside Rai’s far more carefully executed fictional investigation into cross-cultural and diasporic issues in (Un)Arranged Marriage. I do not know if Sold as Seen is attempting unsuccessfully to reach a younger audience, or if it was just written in haste as a “pot-boiler”: publications intended to put meat in the pot of poor, starving literary artists… Who knows? Maybe Rai was struggling, and needed the money…


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