January 8th, 2017 by Karen
I have to admit, I judged this book by its cover. If you know anything about me by now, it’s that I loooooooooooooove food. Love it. LOVE. IT. So when I saw the lunch trays on this cover, I was like, “YES! I must read this book!” And I’m really glad that I did!
Save Me a Seat is told in alternating chapters from the perspectives of Joe (written by Sarah Weeks) and Ravi (written by Gita Varadarajan):
Joe is having a tough time, now that his best friends have moved away; they were the main thing helping him cope with being bullied by the most popular boy in their class. And now things are getting even worse, ever since Joe’s mom started working as a lunch monitor at his school — embarrassing him on a daily basis. Plus, Joe’s new teacher this year doesn’t seem to understand that his Auditory Processing Disorder makes him anxious about speaking in class. Why couldn’t things just be like last year?
Ravi is facing his own challenges, having just moved to the U.S. from India. At home, Ravi had tons of friends and was top of his class. Given his popularity, and with English as his first language, Ravi thought the transition to his new life in America would be easy. But boy was he wrong! His teacher and classmates have trouble understanding Ravi’s accented English, and none of them understand the culture he’s coming from — just as Ravi starts to realize he doesn’t understand the culture and expectations at his new school. Why couldn’t his family just have stayed in India, where everything was great?
Joe and Ravi are obviously very different from one another, and at first, that’s all that they can see about each other. But this book is about the importance of looking beyond surface level and getting to know other people’s many layers. At least, that’s what Miss Frost says is important when she meets with both Joe and Ravi at school. But can these two classmates move past their assumptions and come together as allies? Not until they can look deeper and understand the complex layers within themselves…
I really enjoyed getting to know both Ravi and Joe. Each boy has his own unique voice and story, and I loved learning about their lives. Each character also opened up a new world to me: I was not familiar with Auditory Processing Disorder before reading Joe’s chapters, and I also appreciated the window into Ravi’s family’s background and experience as immigrants from India.
I was also really glad to discover that this book takes place over a single week. To be honest, when I read the book description, I was a bit concerned that this would be a heavy book, requiring me to follow the difficult lives of two students as they suffered through a tough school year. Instead, the short chapters and day-by-day frame of Save Me a Seat made the book a smooth, effortless read. Which is not to say that the book is simple — just like Ravi and Joe, it has layers.
And in case you were wondering, the food descriptions did not disappoint either! I perked up every time Joe mentioned his mother’s cooking, and my mouth watered as I read the descriptions of Ravi’s Indian lunches. Darn it, now I’m hungry! And I’m curious: What’s your favorite thing to eat for school lunch? Leave a comment with your answer!