Vibha Batra checks all possible teen-lit boxes: hunky teen hero, hormonal teen heroine, rain dances, Facebook status updates, iPod playlists, inconsiderate parents, stern principals, careless punctuation. Unfortunately a good plot is one thing that seems to have slipped through the cracks. Batra's writing is easy-breezy, her characters convincing if caricatured (the Nalli-obsessed mom, the oily-earnest neighbour, the trendy mean-cheerleader type), but dude, where's my story?
Here's what happens: our heroine Rinki Tripathi is transplanted from Delhi to Chennai by the cruel vagaries of fate (aka Dad's transfer). She's devastated at being parted from her BFF Ankita (despite the atrocious farewell party Ankita throws her) and her new school is not the most welcoming environment either. However, there's tall, dark Tejas for thrills and nerdy-but-nice Robin for girl support. Sounds familier? Rinki could be Lindsay Logan's alter ego in this desi Mean Girls story. Barely any twists in this tale though- when Rinki forges her parents' signature on her report card, you'd expect a confrontation at the very least. Not happening. She lies to her parents and sneaks out for a late-night date at a discotheque. Yes, her father IS waiting at home when she returns but, surprise, surprise, no major showdown. Tejas, unsettlingly close to prettiest-girl-in-school Priya, gives her the cold shoulder for weeks after an argument (strangely, narrated as a diary entry near the end of the book. Who knew Rinki wrote anything longer than text messages?) but within a couple of pages is sweeping her off her feet at the school dance. End of story. No explanations. No character analysis. And not even a hint of teenage angst.
'Sweet Sixteen (Yeah, Right!)' is touted as a Delhi-to-Chennai journey seen through the eyes of a modern teen, but that's more or less covered by a few one-liners and Rajini jokes. Somehow the book reads more like a prequel to a series than an actual standalone book. You're still waiting for the story to start when the book ends, and that, to quote Rinki, is too mucking fuch.
Published by: Penguin Books India; Imprint: Penguin Young Adult; Extent: 184pp; Children, Fiction; Price: (Rs.) 199