If the gods wanted Akash to have an education, he is told, they would give him one. But Akash has spent his entire twelve years poor and hungry. So he decides to take control of his own life and try for a scholarship to the city school where he can pursue his beloved math. But will challenging destiny prove to be more than he has bargained for? In this raw and powerful novel, fate and self-determination come together in unexpected ways, offering an unsentimental look at the realities of India.
Twelve-year-old Akash, a math whiz living in rural India, longs to stay in school and win a scholarship so that he can go to school in the city. But for that to happen he needs a tutor, and his family of farmers already faces terrible debt. When Akash's father, his only living parent, dies, his grandmother gives Akash to a moneylender to do slave labor in his quarry. Quickly realizing that he will never pay off his family's debt working there and unwilling to return to the family that sent him away, Akash escapes and makes his way to Delhi, where he struggles to find income to support his dream. He befriends the kind owner of a newspaper stand, but his desperation to find a tutor leads to a stint dealing drugs. Schröder's (The Dog in the Wood) well-paced novel is filled with details about life on the streets of Delhi and the influence of Akash's Hindu faith. If Akash's single-mindedness in his goal makes him a bit one-dimensional, his thoughtfulness and determination should inspire those who have it much easier. Ages 10–14. (Nov.)