Ananya is a simple story, well told. The author tries to portray the life of a young girl on the cusp of life. Everything that is amazing is going to happen to her. Everything that she wants, she’s going to get. It’s typical of today’s youth who believe that they deserve the best. And yet, everything goes to pieces.
The titular character Ananya is a studious, bespectacled girl, who lives in Pune with her family. An only child, she holds the key to her parents’ dreams and she knows exactly what she wants from her life. But things change unexpectedly when her friend Mohini’s brother Rohit breezes into her well-ordered life. Ananya finds herself drawn to this handsome boy, who is studying in the US. Rohit is the aspirational figure for Ananya in more ways than one. But it is his good looks and charm that win her over eventually and change her life forever.
Ananya’s relationship with her parents, their standing in society, her relationship with her friends – everything comes under the scanner and Ananya knows she has to bear the burden of her one mistake, an afternoon spent with Rohit alone. The awkward encounter is thankfully described briefly.
Tackling a sensitive subject like teenage pregnancy is not easy. So it appears that the author might have taken an easy route for her protagonist, as she has a miscarriage. Readers would have been interested in knowing just what Ananya would have done if her pregnancy had survived. Would she have told her parents? Would she have aborted the baby? Would she have gone ahead and had the child? That would have made for a more compelling story.
How Ananya picks up the pieces of her life afterwards is what makes up the rest of the story. Humiliation in school, depression, fighting parents and steadily declining marks seem to be Ananya’s fate until she decides to re-evaluate what she wants from her life. There also seems to be a cautionary tale of sorts, where her ambitious, busy and career-oriented mother is blamed for what happens to her. Certainly, that could have been avoided.
The novel, which is a quick-paced read, is a straightforward one and told from the point of view of Ananya. While the book has not overtly been pitched as a young adult one, the subject matter and the protagonist’s concerns make it evident that it belongs to the YA genre. With that in mind, I believe the book would have definitely read better had it been narrated from a third person point of view – because the voice of the protagonist makes her sound much older than her seventeen years. The writing itself is painfully gauche at times, and while slang tends to make a book dated and its absence is appreciated here, the dialogue doesn’t ring true in many instances.
Nevertheless, for a debut novel, it is indeed an engaging story, and it would be interesting to see what the author Shilpa Gupta comes up with next.
By Andaleeb Wajid
ANANYA: A BITTERSWEET JOURNEY
Author: Shilpa Gupta
Rupa Publications, 2015
Subject Category: Contemporary/Fiction/Young Adult