Ranjit Lal
age group: 
12+ yrs
Number of pages: 
Young Zubaan
Sexual abuse friendship bullying
realistic fiction


Smitten is a gripping tale about bullying, adolescent angst, friendship and most important sexual abuse, a subject generally shunned in children’s literature. However, given the current scenario with cases of sexual abuse being alarmingly on the rise, and especially, as more often than not, the offender is a member of the family, or, someone who enjoys their confidence, it is of vital importance to pull the topic out into the open from the closet where it tends to be shoved and placed onto the book shelves by adults who care – namely parents and educators.

Samir, is a puny 15 year-old adolescent boy whose parents are very busy with their careers, and so, when a new family moves into the neighbouring house, he is envious of his new friend Akhila, whose step-father dotes on her. However, things are not as hunky-dory as they seem to be. Soon, Samir realizes that there are dark secrets lurking behind the smiling faces. Akhila is being sexually abused and not knowing whom to turn to, in desperation, finally shares her fears and anguish with him. Soon things turn ugly and the family is plunged into a series of unfortunate events.

A gripping story - albeit a dark and sordid theme, dealt with great sensitivity by Ranjit Lal, who is also the winner of the Vodafone Crossword award for his book Faces in the Water - a story that deals with violence against the girl child, in the form of female infanticide.

What should a girl do if she is being molested, whom should she turn to? The thoughtfully included end-notes in the book offers the names of a couple of organizations which could provide assistance and councelling thus providing a vital lifeline.

This book should be discussed in a classroom setting, in order that girls realize what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. And also understand that instead of succumbing to pressure they should seek help at the very first instance.

Young India Books recommends.

Reviewed by Shamim Padamsee