First a little background on my next read, Gifted by Nikita Lalwani (release date September 11, 2007). We all know how much I love LibraryThing, right? Well, now I love them even more since I received a free advanced reader's copy of this book through their Early Reviewers program. I think this program is awesome not only because I love to read anything on earth and I like free stuff, but also because they use crazy LibraryThing algorithms (with other factors like number of reviews and expressed interest) to match readers up with books. Those algorithms must have worked in my case, because I really enjoyed reading Lalwani's debut novel.
Gifted is the story of Rumi Vasi, a young math genius, and her family. Rumi's parents immigrated from India to Wales, where her father, Mahesh is a mathematics professor, shortly before her birth. Mahesh and Rumi's teachers notice that she has a great talent for mathematics. When the teachers suggest that Rumi be put into a gifted program at school and enter Mensa, Mahesh decides to create a strict program for Rumi's education on his own, as he strongly believes that anyone can be a "genius" if they separate themselves from distractions and push themselves to excel. This program moves Rumi into more and more advanced studies, but also isolates her from her fellow students, her family, and herself. Rumi eventually sits for her exams to enter Oxford University at the age of 14, but the pressure is mounting and it is evident that something will have to change for Rumi.
Although the storyline sounds predictable, Lalwani's writing makes it very fresh and intriguing. She avoids some of the pitfalls of coming-of-age novels by alternating the perspective from Rumi to Mahesh, to Rumi's mother Shreene. All the conflicts in the book are nicely balanced (daughter vs. father, teenager vs. adults, intellectualism vs. popular culture, Indian vs. Welsh, husband vs. wife, tradition vs. innovation, etc.), with no single aspect threatening to take over the narrative and push it over the edge. The climax and ending of the book were just right -- satisfying without explaining too much, and meaningful without being overly dramatic. This was an excellent read, and I look forward to reading more of Lalwani's work in the future.