Cover Image: In the Key of Nira Ghani

In the Key of Nira Ghani

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Member Reviews

A moving YA novel about complicated family relationships, finding your voice, first generation immigrants combined with a strong voice and a bit of humor.  While I was in tears at the end, In the Key of Nira Ghani was a hopeful read.
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*I WAS PROVIDED A DIGITAL GALLEY VIA NETGALLEY IN RETURN FOR MY HONEST REVIEW. THIS DOES NOT AFFECT MY OPINION*

I have so many thoughts and emotions that I'm still sorting through after reading this amazing and wonderful book. Natasha Deen is a skilled, brilliant author who was more than able to craft a fictional story of experience and an amazing character that called to readers to analyze themselves and their positions and easy comings.

Nira is a character I really felt for. Her parents want for her to only succeed in life, far better than they were given the chance to, and she just wants to fit in at school. It comes out a bit of the way into the book that she's really into playing her pocket trumpet and wants to have a career with music, not the life of a doctor like her parents want.

I really loved the way Deen developed her characters. In the book, I first thought Nira came across as a bit whiny because of the way she kept saying I want, I want, I want. But then I began to understand as I continued reading, and things became more clear as Nira grew out of the shell she'd been trapped inside and into someone who was able to defend herself and speak her voice when wanted.

While I loved a majority of the side characters in this book, I did still have a few problems with two of them. With Noah, I really felt like he could've been better written. I think he was more cast to the side, and while I'm normally fine with that with side characters, he also happened to be a love interest. And though romance was not a main focus of this book, I couldn't help but feel like we were getting a silhouette of what could've been a better character.

Along with that, I absolutely hated McKenzie. McKenzie's character was horrible to Nira. She spouted off racist things throughout a majority of the book, and she made Nira feel terrible about herself on top of that. Later on toward the end of the book, it was chalked up to her being intimidated by Nira, which I honestly felt was just as bad as the racism she was perpetuating. I didn't like how she was so easily forgiven, and while I do believe people can change, I highly doubt someone is capable of changing that quickly.

Moving on from characters though, I really did like the plot of this story. I think it was well crafted and put together, and I like that there wasn't a specific ending wrap-up that was made obvious but instead, a multitude of surprises. I think that Deen was able to easily surprise me with the ending 10% of the book, which is a very rare thing for me.

Overall, I really did love this book, minus those two bits about the side characters. I think this was a really important read, and I enjoyed it so much I binged it within 36 hours. For that, I rate it 4.75. I look forward to reading more from Natasha Deen, and I hope to enjoy her other books as much as this one.
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I always love reading an #OwnVoices book. It offers me a perspective that I would otherwise know nothing about. In the Key of Nira Ghani was a wonderful, emotional read that takes on one young girl's desire to be what she wants--an amazing trumpeter--and her parent's desire for her to be a scientist or doctor. At the same time, she is navigating a new friend group and trying to fit in with their dynamic. She must convince her parents to allow her to follow her dream. She must step back and look at what everyone is her life is dealing with while taking on her own problems. Such an incredible book!
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This book was a mixed bag for me. The story read well and moved at a good pace, the main character likable! However, I feel like I’ve read this story before. It’s relatable since I am a brown girl and a product of immigrants, but this story has been done many times before - the “good” brown girl who does everything well and just wants one thing to herself. It makes me a little tired because I can see myself in the story, and I wish I saw something stronger. A good attempt by the author, but just missing a bit of that “originality” I was hoping for!
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I was excited for this book because of the Guyanese aspect, but it ended up being too predictable and somewhat bland.
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We reviewed this book on the YA Cafe Podcast last year, but I'm just now updating this. 

In our podcast ep, we talked about loving Nira and the dynamics between the two families. I also learned about pocket trumpets, so that was cool. We also talked about the portrayal of family in a big way. In a later ep, we got to have Natasha Deen as a guest and she is a delight. 

Thank you for letting us read this book. We gave it lots of love on IG and on our podcast, and just forgot to update you here.
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This may be a trope that has been done time and time again, but Natasha Deen weaves a beautiful story of family, music and one's own dream.
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"In the Key of Nira Ghani" is not quite the story I was expecting. It can be a bit bland. The characters, while I don't think I can say they're 100% realistic, were believable and somewhat interesting. Unfortunately, the story was chock full of cliches and was overly predictable for me.
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The characters in this book were very realistic and written very well. I enjoyed their arcs and how they dealt with insecurities and dreams. I did think that the ending was the weakest part of the story because it seemed underdeveloped.
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Adolescence is a difficult time. The pressure to fit in – wear the right clothes; say the right things; be popular; be smart; be true to yourself, but don’t be weird. And don’t forget the hormones. Add to that a traditional family from another culture, and you’ve got all the makings of Natasha Deans’ modern-day coming of age story, In the Key of Nira Ghani (Running Press Teens). Although there is something routine about the coming of age story, Nira and her family are immigrants to Canada from Guyana, and the addition of both Guyanese cultural elements and life as immigrants in a new country add to the complexity of Nira’s experience. 

According to the bureaucratic rules of the time in which Nira’s parents migrated, they were forced to sacrifice everything they had had in Guyana, and to start again from scratch in Canada. At a later stage, however, when her Uncle Raj and Aunty Gul, migrated with their daughter, Farah, the rules had changed, allowing them to bring their wealth with them. In addition to exacerbating an already fraught sibling relationship between Raj and Nira’s father, in which competition creates tension for everyone, this highlights the arbitrariness of government policy, and the impact that it has on the lives of those affected. Where Nira’s family must consider every dollar they spend, Farah has seemingly limitless money and the ability to get anything she wants. When this appears to include Nira’s friends, however, further difficulties arise.

As she navigates her way through friendship rifts and parental expectations, Nira’s relationship with her indomitable grandmother is a source of relief. Against expectations that she will go to medical school with top grades, Nira’s true love in music – a passion her grandmother shares. There is a sense that, despite having presumably lived the majority of her life in Guyana, Nira’s grandmother has enough distance from the situation to see both sides: the parent’s desire for their child to have a “better” life, and the child’s desire for that life to be on her own terms. Irrespective of the conflict, she is always on hand with a quiet word and a cup of tea. Or sometimes just the tea. Nira’s relationship with her grandmother is one of the most special parts of the book, inviting the reader to share in the love that allows Nira to feel seen, and to grow in the confidence required to pursue her own dreams.

Nira’s relationships with her friends are also an important part of the book – as is the case in most adolescents’ lives. Initially, Nira’s best friend, Emily, is the only person with a close role in her life (outside of her family) but the addition of popular kids, Noah and McKenzie, to that circle causes both pleasure and pain. Although it becomes clear why these two decide to join with Nira and Emily as the book progresses, it sometimes feels as though this is contrived, as, in most real-life cases, the popular kids would not have jumped ship to sit with the kids who sit alone. Perhaps drawing from a lower tier of the lunchroom echelons would have made the story that bit more convincing.

In the overall characterisation of the novel, however, this critique is small and the book is an enjoyable read. For lovers of jazz and lovers of family and friends, In the Key of Nira Ghani is like a cup of tea in the kitchen with Grandma – comfortable, consoling, and exactly what you need.
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This novel is an ownvoices story following a Guyanese teen. She wants to become a musician but feels stuck with her parents expectations. The characters in this novel are so real and complex. Nira is a relatable teen, with her dreams and insecurities. Her family is amazing. 

Really hope we get a sequel because after reading the ending, I want more!
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Nira has grown up the child of West Indian immigrants. While her family doesn't have much money, her parents have specific expectations for how she should behave and what her future should look like. Nira just wants to be invisible, which is super hard to do when you are the only brown person at school and wear bargain basement clothes. Nira seeks solace with her best friend Emily and her pocket trumpet Georgia. Nira hopes to become a professional musician and when the opportunity to try out for a jazz competition presents itself, she is driven to make that happen. However, this flourishing musician side of her attracts the notice of the hottest guy at school and his fumbling racist friend. Nira feels that her best friend is replacing her, that the hot guy could never fall for her, and that her parents will never let her be happy and play her trumpet. Nira's grandmother uses tea to solve all of her problems, though she may be onto something. Is there a way for everyone to be happy?

I appreciated the character arc of the cousin. While Farrah starts off as a brat, throughout the plot the reader truly gets to know her and understand where she is coming from. In fact, this is the best part of the novel. I was interested in Nira's story, though I truly responded to her cousin. I think the twist at the end was unnecessary and extreme. I feel that the same character arcs could have been achieved without the measures that were taken. It was a solidly middle of the road book.
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I received a copy of this book for a fair and honest review. I was excited to get this book since I have a love for story that tells about family and friends and coming of age. Nira just wants to go after her dream and passion of music. She has to navigate crushes, friendships, family and discovering things about them and herself along the way. It is a wonderful story and it made me feel a lot of things and be in my emotions.
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This book was provided to me via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

While it took me a while to finally get to reading this book -- the curse of having what some people might consider too many books -- once I started reading, I absolutely flew through it. The writing is great, the characters are amazing, there were some moments that moved me to tears. I loved Nira and her friends and her family. I loved the character development throughout the novel.

Is the plot itself the most revolutionary thing ever? Probably not. Do I care? Absolutely not.

The characters carried this story, and did so amazingly well. Probably one of my favorite reads of the last two years.
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*I received a copy of this book from HBG Canada in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion.*

I’m just going dive right in and start with the part of this book that stole the show for me…the characters. These people felt so real a couple of times I had to check myself and give a mental reminder that they’re just in the book. My favourite by far was the grandmother. She’s everything you’d want from a sassy but still immensely loving granny and she was incredibly entertaining. This matriarch was clearly the glue that binds Nira’s family and I loved every second that she was on the page. 

I also loved the dynamic and struggles between the core friend group of Nira, Emily, Mac, Noah, and Farah. Human interactions aren’t always easy and happy all the time even among the best of friends and it felt very real going through the rocky patches this bunch had as everyone tried to find their place and voice within a swiftly changing dynamic. Also Noach and Nirah…swoon. I love me some cute and confusing romance. 

The story itself was also great and I flew through reading In the Key of Nira Ghani faster than I realized. I remember feeling like I was hitting the spot were things were wrapping up but felt like I had been reading for no time at all. The banter, the drama, and just the overall feeling of wanting to know what happens to all the characters whom you’ve come to love drives the pacing of the book really well. I was so invested in the people and events of this story that, I kid you not, I cried for the entirety of about a 10% chunk of the book. Keep your tissues handy friends because I was not prepared so my poor sleeve was pretty damp for a bit. 

I liked In the Key of Nira Ghani as a coming-of-age story because it showed not only Nira struggling with finding her identity and making her own lane. The secondary characters all had their own things to work through and paths to forge and you see them go through it right alongside Nira. Very few people actually know who the heck they are or what they’re doing when they’re teens (okay…adults too…) so it’s nice to see a picture painted where all members of the friend circle grow. 

Final Verdict: 

Read it. Now. I loved the story, the characters, the little bit of swoon mixed in, the teenage angst and uncertainty. It almost felt like it ended to fast because I didn’t want to let go of the characters.
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I really wanted to like this one.  It is one of the few books from a rather mainstream publisher that has a connection to my Guyanese roots.  Unfortunately, it was just so bland and hard to follow.  I didn't end up finishing it.
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I found Nira to be a frustrating character. While her struggle to get her parents to understand her dreams is relatable, she's so judgemental when it comes to her peers that her story was difficult to read at times. This is especially true with McKenzie, who Nira paints as racist and inherently hateful. While McKenzie has an ignorant and dismissive vibe, she doesn't play all that hateful. What it comes down to is the secondary characters being under described, under-characterized. I liked the messages about looking beyond a person's surface, recognizing what things influence their decision making, the kind of person they are becoming. Well intentioned but far from perfect
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This is a story about young girl who’s is coming of age while learning to live in a different part of the world. As she grows she begins to understand and see her world differently. I love that this book is an own voices which I feel like always give a book a better understanding of the world. I would totally recommend and reread this book.
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This is the perfect book for a number of my students who often feel caught between two world. It allowed me to better my empathy for those who feel this way
It’s a well written, character driven book that has the diversity we’ve been waiting for.
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Bibi Nira Ghani, Nira for short, is the only Guyanese student in her high school, she’s one of only two brown students in the whole school, and she feels it. Natasha Deen’s In the Key of Nira Ghani is a wonderful coming of age story of an immigrant girl in Canada trying to find her own way, while still living in the world of her parent’s expectations. Through her relationship with her family, her friends and her trumpet, Georgia, Nira learns what it means to be herself. I was provided a copy by Perseus Books via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

I won’t lie, this has been a particularly difficult review to write because In the Key of Nira Ghani is such a good book. All week I’ve been staring at the wordpress writing pad daring myself to put words to screen. I’m not sure how I can do justice to the way that Deen captures the feeling of being a teenager between worlds growing up to figure out where to stand.

Nira has clearly had to grow up a little faster, and it resulted in a strong young woman ready to start standing on her own two feet. However, she’s doing so in a dual world, on one hand she’s supposed to be subservient to her parents, and on the other hand, she’s supposed to be getting ready to become independent and rely on herself as a young adult. Nira missteps and stumbles as any teen does while learning their footing, but she does so with an acute sense of right and wrong. She knows when she’s hurt someone, and feels it deeply, even when she knows what she’s done isn’t wrong.

While the story follows Nira through every scene, her friends and family are still fully formed and solid characters in their own. If Deen decided to write a sequel following her cousin or friends, I would be right there, as all of her characters become real and solid. While we may not know them as well as Nira, by the end of the book we understand their decisions and the choices they’ve made. As Nira’s mother says, they’re all family. Even the smallest character, the teacher handling jazz band auditions has clear and understandable motivations. 

In the Key of Nira Ghani is not all happy and fluffy, there are some difficult moments, but certainly nothing worse than the average person faces in their lives. Deen has built up the plot line to feeling like a natural conclusion throughout. Nothing feels entirely surprising, but similarly nothing feels too predictable. I look forward to reading more from Deen, her voice is strong throughout and she’s written a wonderful story.
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