Get a lowdown on a teen’s life!
First things first, this book is about 290 pages filled with illustrations and conversations! Yes, it’s a graphic novel and it will definitely be one of my favs reads this year! And, that I consider it to be one of too many pages of a good book is not an understatement. Let me say it in the beginning, I loved, loved ‘The Secret Life of Debbie G’ by Vibha Batra. And there are many reasons for it, let me write them out. This book is about teenagers. So, why does one have to write about them, you may ask? Well, because they face issues like - doing well in academics, dealing with heartbreaks, staying ‘relevant’ in the fancy school group, ritualised conflicts with parents, divorce or separation of their parents, outing, homophobia, bullying, fat shaming, slut shaming, and what not. Yet they are an invisible section in our society. This book is about how a sixteen-year-old Debbi G who faces all this and more and comes out triumphant. So, kudos to Vibha for writing about this ‘not so irrelevant’ section of our families in particular and society as a whole.
Debbie G and her life
Debbie was actually Soundarya (who, for our knowledge, hates her name and prefers to go by the name Arya), She hails from a South Indian family and attends a posh school in New Delhi. Okay, so she is a plus-sized, invisible, in a top-shot school teen who is unapologetic and embraces her curves but all this is also the bane of her life. This heart-warming story is all about her plans to get back at the bullies and meanies at school. She builds an alter-ego through social media to give back to all the ‘super-brats’ and the ‘nerds’. Yes, who doesn’t know the existence of such hierarchies of ‘coolness’ in our schools? Of course, it makes her an online sensation in an instant, but then things start going downhill! Read to know more; don’t want to put out spoilers.
The other characters
Debbie’s relationship with mom Aishwarya is one of my favourite mother-daughter relationships that I have come across in a book. She is a divorcee, she is strong, broad-minded, independent woman with a modern outlook who wants to bring out the best in the people around her. Wow, who doesn’t want to be around someone like her? On the other hand Arya’s maternal grandparents are your typical judgmental Indian grandparents and had me rolling my eyes multiple times.
Then there are the super endearing Nickster and Rucksack (a.k.a Nikhil and Rukhsar), Arya’s besties and their constant and hilarious banter with her is something to look forward to in the book. Rukhsar, a budding TV star and Nikhil, has just found a new partner. They have their own story-lines which highlight some of the evils prevalent in our society.
What I liked
The author, Vibha has managed to perfectly capture Indian family dynamics, while also dealing with issues such as divorce, separation, remarriage and most importantly, finding love all over again. The parallel-plot of Aishwarya falling in love a second time and marrying her new-found love interest shows how such events should be normalised and how the stigma attached to the same has to be erased from our society.
Most importantly, this book conveys how social media and want for online fame in the form of - followers, likes, comments, can have a negative effect on a person’s mental health and emotional well-being. We also get to know how we might go to extreme lengths for popularity and fame and how things can come crumbling down. In short, we are made aware of perils of social media and what becoming prey to social media might make us do. I would also like to add that I learnt a lot many cool-teen terms and lingo in the process.