Like Smoke
Paro Anand
age group: 
12+ yrs
Number of pages: 
Penguin books
social issues


Like smoke cannot exist without fire, so is the case with every human emotion. Emotions result from a myriad of experiences.

Honestly, I haven’t read Paro Anand before, but after having read a few stories from this amazing collection of 20 short stories by her, I was glued. Though the book is meant for young adults, anyone could identify with these stories. This engrossing book can be read in one sitting, but the writer, herself, reveals that the reader can choose to read the stories in no particular order, at a time convenient to them. The emotions are sewn into words in a manner that “the story that catches your eye, matches your mood, scratches your itch.”

I am completely at a loss for words when it comes to describing the gamut of feelings I experienced while reading and even after. Not that I haven’t read books for teenagers before, but there’s something in the lucidity of language, the fluidity of thoughts, and the choice of words that makes “Like Smoke” stand out among others.

Every story in the book transports the reader to that time of youth where conflicts, apprehensions, doubts, dilemmas, new love, angst are realities of the day. The writer chooses to introduce her reader to the politics, society, economy, traditions and culture of India subtly and cautiously so as not to deviate from the themes of youth: friendship, love, religion, death, and hate.
Paro Anand does not create a false image of the world we live in. Her motive seems not to give solutions to problems, but rather to show that each of us has to deal with the hard facts of life, and that we are not alone.

I recommend all to read this book for stories like ‘Those Yellow Flowers of August’, ‘Wild Child’, ‘In the Shadow of Greatness’, ‘See you Shortly’ ‘Jason Jamison and I’, ‘City Boy’. They will make you feel happy or sad, angry or peaceful, and ones like ‘Susu’ will leave you rolling on the floor laughing. All this and more can be said about this interesting read from Paro Anand, but the best is better left unsaid!


Reviewed by Anushree Goyal


Like Smoke by Paro Anand was a book I got my hands on only because it was recommended by a friend. Again. Though I wouldn’t have thought of reading this book initially, I’m glad I did. The stories were deep and thoughtful, and brought out a sense of gratitude in me that I wouldn’t have discovered myself.
Each and every one of these stories is a gateway into a divergent world of another unique teen’s mind, thoughts and emotions. It allows you to tap into an unusual perspective, different, yet extremely similar to our own mindset. Each teenager, having to deal with a bucketful of emotional wreckage every day, can put it down, can describe it, capturing every inch of that feeling and forcing it on you. These emotions are relatable for most teenagers, and probably for some adults too. It’s like walking through a garden, except that all the fruits and flowers are memories, and each fragrance or stench is an emotion.
Even though every single story has rooted itself inside me, none has gone as deep as They Called Her ‘Fats’, the story of a javelin-throwing prodigy, Fatima Whitbread. Fatima is unemotional and isn’t socially inclined, and is constantly found in rumours around her multiple child-care centres. They called her a ‘witch’ and said that she performed ‘ancient pagan rituals’ in the middle of the night, but despite all that, her sheer will to run, to throw, set her free. It is an encouraging and touching story, and it tells us to, no matter what, follow your dreams. This story wouldn’t have been an initial choice of mine, being sports-themed and all, but I have to grudgingly admit that I do take away from this story. Chasing after your aspiration is an important thing in life, and if we didn’t pursue them, then we’d all be failures.
Another thing about the book that I really appreciated, was the effort to bring in themes that children today should know. There were stories about terrorism, riots and domestic violence. I find this important as thing like these are actually happening in this world, right now. We’re trapped in our personal safe bubble by our parents -even though they only want to protect us- and we hardly know what’s going on outside it. I’m saying this through first-hand experience…I had to find out some day.
Stories such as ‘Those Yellow Flowers of August’, ‘Wild Child’, ‘Milk’, ‘See you Shortly’ ‘Jason Jamison and I’ or even ‘City Boy’, which will make you feel like sobbing, wanting to break something or crying out in rage because of the unfairness of this world and what it does to people. There are other stories too, like ‘Susu’, which will make you burst out in laughter, in contrary to all the emotional and heart-wrenching tales.
Each one of these tales will touch you in some way or another. Each teen in this book is someone you have seen, or maybe even been. They are not all of one event, of one time frame, or even of one emotion, they just do one thing similar – they feel, and they want to help others do the same.
The book feels raw at first glance, and probably might feel like a rant to older readers. But people younger beg to differ. The book is something you just pick up and read when a wave of emotion threatens to drown you, so you can relate to something or want to lighten up. The only recommendation I have for this book is teenagers, and those who are adolescent at heart or overly-emotional, like me.
I have nothing more to say but to pick up a copy of your own, and no matter how long it sits on your bookshelf, it will call you, and then you will pick it up sometime. I guarantee

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