G. Bianco, 2019
Senior year of high school can be awkward for many people, but for the titular character of Sunny G’s Series of Rash Decisions, it seems like he’s the only one struggling. This debut novel by Navdeep Singh Dhillon, which is set to be released on February 8th, features a new kind of YA protagonist as he strives for one great, reckless night to be fearless and bold.
Sunny G's brother left him one thing when he died: His notebook, which Sunny is determined to fill up with a series of rash decisions. Decision number one was a big one: He stopped wearing his turban, cut off his hair, and shaved his beard. He doesn't look like a Sikh anymore. He doesn't look like himself anymore. Even his cosplay doesn't look right without his beard. Sunny debuts his new look at prom, which he's stuck going to alone. He's skipping the big fandom party—the one where he'd normally be in full cosplay, up on stage playing bass with his band and his best friend, Ngozi—in favor of the Very Important Prom Experience. An experience that's starting to look like a bust. Enter Mindii Vang, a girl with a penchant for making rash decisions of her own, starting with stealing Sunny's notebook. When Sunny chases after her, prom turns into an all-night adventure—a night full of rash, wonderful, romantic, stupid, life-changing decisions.
To be honest, I did not enjoy this YA contemporary as much as I thought I would. I thought it'd be very romcom-ish and fun, since it’s set on prom night, but instead the plot was just a little too fast-paced and filled with references I didn’t understand.
For example, I read a whole scene where Sunny, our main character, is at a cosplay party, but I didn't recognize any anime/manga character or show references except for “The Last Airbender” (which I didn't even watch as a kid). So, as the reader, I was totally lost because of the lack of explanation of these fandoms and references. I also think the maturity levels of the characters wasn’t quite up to par. Sunny and his friends are seniors in high school, yet it felt like their maturity level was more of an awkward freshman level. Therefore, the meshing of my lack of knowledge and the author’s lack of explanations, paired with a main character who's so awkward it's almost cringey, instead of endearing, made this a not-so-enjoyable reading experience for me.
While I was very intrigued by the cultural references, like the Punjabi dishes and words used and the Hmong historical references, I felt like I didn’t get the full effect of them because they were only half-explained. And neither my Kindle dictionary nor Google Translate were able to help me translate certain phrases I wanted clarification on (for example: it took me a third of the book to realize that "Biji" was referencing Sunny’s grandmother).
One thing I did like was the way the book discussed alcoholism and grieving the loss of a loved one. It helped add a bit of depth to the story and how Sunny is trying to keep his brother alive in some way. But it wasn’t quite enough to sway me into really liking the plot and events of the book.
I admire the way Dhillon tried to create a novel that featured some underrepresented voices in YA literature, including a Sikh main character, and tried to highlight cultural diversity. Maybe if I related more to some of the characters or experiences mentioned in the story or if I was still in my teenage years I’d appreciate this story more, but ultimately this book just wasn’t for me.
*I received an ARC from Penguin Teen in exchange for my honest opinion.
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