Dealing with the Dhillons


2503bc678ae459149be9023936043268-2 by Narinder Dhami. Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers, 2005. Hardcover, 224 pages, $14.95. Audio Cassette $25.00. Ages 8 up.;

The best of intentions goes awry, and the Dhillon sisters create more havoc than their long-suffering but stylish Auntie can handle in Narinder Dhami’sBollywood Babes. When Geena, 14, Amber (Ambajit), 12, and Jazz (Jasvinder), 11, track down a former Hindi-film heroine, invite her to their home, and ask her to be the guest of honor at their school’s Bollywood-themed fundraiser, they have no idea that life as they know it will change forever.

Molly Mahal, a faded, 40-something, penniless, and newly-evicted Bollywood has-been, is the object of the Dhillon girls’ attentions. Upon learning that Miss Mahal lives in nearby Reading, the girls set out on a mission to rescue her and, at the same time, bolster the appeal of the fundraiser. The girls’ Auntie is young, attractive, and single, favoring stiletto heels and hot pink tops, making her the perfect match for Amber’s dreamboat of a teacher, Mr. Arora. Auntie has managed to wiggle her way into organizing the Bollywood party along with Mr. Arora, but the two of them can’t agree about Molly Mahal being the headliner.

Once at the Dhillon home, Molly settles in and commandeers Auntie’s room, closet, and wardrobe. She then proceeds to steal Mr. Dhillon’s heart and causes everyone at the school and in the neighborhood to fall at her once-celebrated feet. Content and safe, she blossoms into the stereotypical screen diva that manipulates everyone according to her instant whims. None of this was a part of the girls’ plan, and now they have to salvage what they can of their family, their school, and their community.

While they are bright, clever, and respectful, the Dhillon sisters also are scheming enough to dream up plans that in theory sound simple and charitable but in practice create undeniable chaos. In foundation, there is all the closeness of siblings that one would expect, and the girls are their own mutual admiration society despite the obligatory bickering, blaming, and teasing that interrupt their collective lives. They are each other’s best friends, secret keepers, and support pillars. The girls’ solidarity and loyalty to each other never waver, and they are an example of healthy sibling connectivity. They represent today’s pre-teens in their love of life, their need for “now,” and their attempts to test boundaries.

The book’s fast-paced, head-spinning dialogue clearly reflects today’s pre- and early-teen communication skills, filled with an overabundance of exclamation points and italics. It is classified for ages 8-up; however, the number of characters against the heavy emphasis on dialogue speaks more to ages 10-up. Bollywood Babeswill certainly strike a chord with young readers whose parents were born and raised in India, and in turn, will amuse immigrant parents raising their children in the West.

Is it really true that Mr. Dhillon and Molly have eloped? Will Mr. Arora and Auntie admit their attraction for each other? Does Molly fulfill everyone’s wishes to be the guest of honor at the school party? These and other very pressing questions are answered in this delightful comedy of errors that should not be missed.

Jeanne E. Fredriksen reads and writes near Chicago, where she freelances as a copywriter and teaches Creative Writing to children through the Center for Gifted-National Louis University.

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