I don’t know if it’s the same with you, but some of my friends are as close to me as members of my family are. Some are even closer than that—we share secrets that we would never ever tell our families about. See, you don’t have to be born into a family to feel like family. I’ve always felt that way, and perhaps this is what inspired me to write Hot Chocolate is Thicker than Blood.
Pain is part of all our lives, but so is laughter. Fortunately, I have discovered that even the most horrible, terrible things can be funny in retrospect. So say, you slip on a banana peel in public today, everyone laughs (including that cute guy you have a crush on) and your cheeks burn with embarrassment. What’s the bet that a few months down the line when you remember the incident, you will giggle about it too? It happens to me ALL the time! Humour for me is a way with dealing with everything, including unpleasant incidents. And laughing at yourself is the best way to take life on. That’s why I like writing sad stories that make people laugh!
The back cover read, “I was adopted, just as I had suspected for years.” Intriguing but also makes you wonder if it’s a book of teenage angst and rants. But there’s a promise of cheekiness that makes it very attractive. And happily enough, it delivers by balancing a serious situation with the right amount of humour. The first page draws you in quickly, easily and from there on, there’s only one thing you want to do, and that’s to turn the page. You grin and chuckle and even at the most serious parts, can’t help but smile.
Written in the voice of Anu, the teenage protagonist, it slips into a real and likeable narrative. It features an urban Indian family - parents and two daughters, one of them is Anu, the narrator and the other is Diya, the older and more perfect one. When old secrets come tumbling out that one of the siblings is adopted, the family turns inside out - patience and frustrations, anger and sadness, support and comfort… all of them announce their arrival to keep the plot tight and moving. Some side stories offer a pleasant digression but Rupa has managed to rein them in without losing the plot - clearly, the contribution of a skilled editor!
One of my yardsticks to measure the work that’s gone into any writing is to see how easy and fluently it’s been done. And that’s a measure of craftsmanship, for me. With that, Rupa Gulab scores highly with Hot Chocolate is Thicker Than Blood. It tackles a hard topic - adoption. While that’s not uncommon, what it tackles even better is the tension between siblings when one child is adopted and the other is biological. I’d be giving away the story if I said any more. But what Rupa does so well is create a very plausible urban world and set a very real scenario in it. In the Indian publishing context, what this book does is show some serious writing chops. And then, there's the title - so well thought of, and such a nice way to describe a relationship between adopted siblings.
It’s original, with an interesting voice, tight in its narration, and keeps the reader hooked to the end. One of the best YA books to come from our 'hood in recent times, I recommend it highly for the 12+ ages.