Member Reviews

Thank you Random House and Netgalley for sharing this upcoming novel. I’m not sure I would call the book enjoyable, because it ends on a dark note and I wished there had been a different ending. But the author has done a masterful job meeting her stated intentions (in her notes afterward) and draw attention to the issue of child disappearances without sensationalizing it or turning it into a serial killer type story., Her ability to get inside the head of her pre-teen narrators was fantastic. If you enjoyed the non-fiction Behind the Beautiful Forevers, or the novel A Fine Balance, you should like this too.

Was this review helpful?

Many thanks to NetGalley and Random House for an eARC in exchange for an honest, unbiased opinion.

I’m a really simple person. I see Djinn, I pick up a book. That’s it. Unfortunately, the Djinn weren’t really a thing in this, which was … disappointing? I have so many mixed feelings about this book that the review was really hard to write.

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line is so much more than a mystery. It’s an exploration and commentary on life in India, poverty, classism, friendship, family, and so much more. I felt so immersed in this book that I didn’t want to leave.

I think where the book fell down the most was in trying to be too many things. If it had just been a contemporary mystery, I think the narrative would’ve been stronger, but it had in it these really poignant, beautifully promising moments that hinted at magical realism that just never quite panned out. Also, the ending really killed it for me, and it’s frustrating to be so invested in a book and feel like the payoff just wasn’t there.

My Thoughts:

- The narrator is nine-year-old Jai, and seeing the story through his perspective was both charming and honest, because no one sees the world quite like a child. They can be both naive and brutally honest, and the two worked really well here, I thought. Children also don’t always understand everything, which leads to a subtle unreliable narrator, and that’s a trope I will never tire of. Especially when the character doesn’t mean to be unreliable. They just are. Jai is living in a rough area, with an even rougher upbringing, but he’s just naive enough to have hope in the people around him and faith in himself, which was refreshing to see. It never seemed to be an issue that he couldn’t do something, just that he might have to work to get there eventually. The part I enjoyed the most is just how obsessed Jai was with crime shows and becoming a detective. Because, I mean, what kid doesn’t want to solve some sort of mystery, even if it’s not of a criminal sort?

- When this book begins, you’re sort of just thrown into India, which has its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, Anappara weaves a beautiful story about poverty, classism, struggle, and being an underdog in a world that isn’t interested in giving you handouts. It’s an often brutal, unjust, and shocking society, but it’s real and honest at the same time. On the other hand … I don’t know any of these terms. And there is a lot of them. It was very hard to follow, and I felt like I needed to read next to a computer so I could look things up, and it just disrupted the flow of the book. I love learning about other cultures and being immersed in them, but I need a foothold, and here, I felt like I was just sort of free-falling.

- The first chapter of this is absolutely stunning and eerie and everything I had hoped the book would be. Unfortunately, the narrator changed and the rest of the story was … not. I would’ve absolutely devoured a book written in the style of the first chapter, and I thought, after reading that, I would just love this book. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it. But the first chapter definitely set me up for an experience that the rest didn’t quite follow through with. There were also chapters scattered throughout that built on this feeling of legend and beliefs, and I just absolutely loved these chapters. They were written as if a storyteller was speaking directly to the reader, and there was something very poignant and also kind of spooky about them. Like anything could happen. Like the world was bigger than anyone imagined. Which was such a juxtaposition to the small world that Jai lives in and that the people in the basti often feel trapped in.

- Jai has a funny, often tongue-in-cheek sense of humor that kids often have without even trying, and it made his narrative all the more enjoyable to read. He isn’t trying to be funny, per se, but it still comes across that way because I’m an adult, but also, I was once a kid and can relate to the struggle. He was such a tough kid, struggling through hard times, yet still trying to believe in the world. I just wanted to hug him.

- There were point of view chapters from each child that disappeared that gave a glimpse into why they disappeared, and I’m a little torn on how I felt about them. On the one hand, they obviously added to the mystery a bit, since the reader gets to learn things that the narrator just can’t. On the other … it led to me figuring out the mystery ahead of time, because it kind of gives things away. I did like all their personalities, though. These were characters we didn’t really get to meet until they became pertinent to the plot, so having a little time in their head did make me feel more for them.

- There’s a trio of detectives here (some more willing than others), and the friends balanced each other so well, while making me laugh at the same time. I thought the dynamic between these three worked so well, and they all had something to offer. Not just as far as their abilities in the investigation, but also to the larger narrative about society and everyone’s role in it. It was a nice bit of diversity, to see how each one of them was affected differently as the book went along.

Sticking Points:

- There’s a lot of telling in this book, instead of seeing things happen in action. There are several sections where Jai sort of sums up what he’s learned checklist style, and a lot of clues are gathered “off-screen,” so to speak, so we learn about them when someone tells Jai. There’s still some actual action and investigating, but it felt like a lot of the book takes place elsewhere and we just hear about it after the fact. I definitely felt like the story lagged in places, and I think this is why, because the narrative focused on more quotidian things and just summarized Jai’s discoveries instead.

- It seemed like the book tried to do a little too much, promising things that it couldn’t quite deliver. In particular: magical realism. I mean, it’s named Djinn Patrol, so I expected that to play a bigger role, and it just didn’t. I was so disappointed that the magical realism wasn’t fully realized, because it was so freaking promising and wonderful.My favorite chapters were the ones that delve into the local ghosts and their power, plus the power of their stories, which seemed like the author was priming us for them to play a big role in the story. But they didn’t. It’s unfortunate, because it just rendered these chapters pointless to me. I kept expecting them to tie in, but they just never did.

- The ending felt so rushed and unsatisfactory for me. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but I was gripped at first, around 80%, just not wanting to put it down. But once the mystery solved, I was kind of like … that’s it? Really? I kept expecting something more because surely that couldn’t really be it. And it didn’t feel like the ending really wrapped anything up, just sort of … ended. The words just stopped, and it left a bad aftertaste for me.

Was this review helpful?

"Three weeks ago I was only a schoolkid but now I'm a detective and also a tea-shop boy."

Here is perhaps the most shocking fact you've never heard, or at least I hadn't: An estimated 180 children in India go missing every day . How on earth is this something we, myself included, aren't already talking about?! I'm disappointed it isn't better known and all the more grateful to Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line for shining a light on it.

Djinn Patrol is a story of childhood and a story about stories. Jai is 9 years old and lives in a slum in an unnamed Indian city with his parents and older sister, Runu. Often unsupervised while his parents work long hours Jai roams the neighborhood and local bazaar with friends Pari and Faiz playing and enjoying the smells, if not tastes, of the street market vendors. When one child goes missing Jai sees an opportunity to fill the role left by negligent police and become a detective after his favorite show Police Patrol. The fun of being a child detective begins to fail as more children continue to vanish spreading panic and religious tension through the neighborhood.

I'm finding this review challenging to write, the topic is not what one would call enjoyable. I am, however, full of admiration for the author and love for the characters. It would have been so easy to make the vanished children anonymous as they are not the perspective of the story but each child was given a face and story making their disappearances all the more poignant.

This is not to say that the book wasn't enjoyable either, I did really enjoy it. The writing was beautiful in its childlike candor and wonder. The settings were full of atmosphere and the story was nuanced. The plot can get a bit repetitive but I never felt unengaged or that the pacing was off. I was always interested in picking it up and I was constantly thinking about it when I put it down. Without a doubt my favorite part of the story was Jai. He is stubborn, determined, lazy, sweet and thoughtless. In other words: all the paradoxes of childhood and the search for independence while still being powerless. The author managed to write a child so familiar you can't help but see yourself in him despite the radically different upbringing (for me at least.)

If you decide to pick this one up what you'll find is wholly original. It broke my heart and warmed it in equal measure. I do hope you'll give it a try.

"This story is a talisman. Hold it close to your hearts."

Was this review helpful?

This book took me by surprise. I can't believe how much I enjoyed it. It was so unexpected and atmospheric and full of suspense. Current events and "own voice" fiction at its very best. Totally recommended.

Was this review helpful?

I struggle with how to rate this book. The book brings to life the children who go missing from the slums of India every year, as seen through the eyes of our ten year old protagonist, Jai. Jai is a fourth standard student obsessed with crime tv shows. When one of the boys from his basti goes missing, he and some friends try their hand at detective work to solve the mystery. Author Anappara did a fantastic job of capturing the point of view of our ten year old protagonist, but that is also what made the book so hard to follow in the end.

Was this review helpful?

Unfortunately I just couldn’t get into this book. I think the premise is interesting and I think that the idea to write it from a child’s point of view is a good one. Perhaps it’s just not the right book for me at this moment. I’ll likely pick it back up later.

Was this review helpful?

A haunting chilling novel of a ghetto in India known as a Basti a boy disappearing police looking away.Three boys take matters in their own look for their missing friend.We are brought into a different culture a different life.There are Hindu words mystical culture.A unique book a book you will not forget.#netgalley#randomhouse

Was this review helpful?

Unexpected, interesting and all too real to be fiction. Deepa Anappara literally takes the reader to experience life in the streets of a slum on the outskirts of an Indian city. The story follows three young boys as they try to make sense of why their friends are going missing from their basti. An unforgettable and immersive cultural experience. From a writer whose new voice debuts with a roar.

Was this review helpful?

I found Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line to be an absolute page turner. I was a bit confused in the beginning with the structure, but after a couple of chapters I was hooked.. If you read much Indian literature, you may not learn much, but this is a new twist on structure and the writing is excellent. Each of the three sections starts with a "chapter" titled This Story Will Save Your LIfe. I would describe these as folklore and are probably my favorite sections. Each child who disappears has a chapter that describes the action leading up to their disappearance. The rest of the story is told by Jai a nine year old boy who lives with his 12 year old sister and parents in a basti (slum), but they are not the poorest of the poor. I thought the descriptions of their slum life were very evocative. All the characters were well-drawn and easy to keep separate. I would not hestitate to recommend this book to anyone. I want to thank the publisher and Net Galley for giving me an ARC to read and review.

Was this review helpful?

9-year-old Jai lives with his friends, Pari and Faiz in the city slums next to the dump. When a classmate goes missing, the trio decides to use Pari’s voracious reading habits and their TV show detective skills As more and more children go missing evidence starts pointing to a much more sinister possibility. Can the trio figure out what is happening to the other children before it’s too late? Could a mythical djinn really be behind the disappearances? The story does a great job of bringing to life each well-developed, likable, intrepid character. The plot is well-written and the author does a good job of mixing more serious elements with humor and child-like points of view. Readers who like mystery, magical realism, and friendship stories will enjoy reading this book.

Was this review helpful?

As far as nine-year-old Jai is concerned, living in a slum is amazing. The vivid sights, sounds, and smells of his home and the nearby bazaar are endlessly fascinating, far worthier of his time and attention than schoolwork. Then children start getting snatched. Inspired by the true crime shows he watches way too many of, Jai decides to investigate. Along with his friends, brilliant Pari and superstitious Faiz, he collects evidence and follows leads far more assiduously than the police. Jai's joyful swagger only partially counteracts the dark subject matter, which is based on India's very real child disappearance epidemic.

Was this review helpful?

Powerful story told from the perspective of a young boy living in a "basti" (kind of ghetto) in India. Children are disappearing and the police refuse to act. The boy and his friends try to play detective and find their missing friends. Wonderfully descriptive writing highlighting disturbing situations that are truly occuring.

Was this review helpful?

This novel has a mystical haze over the entire story. Filled with unexplained Hindu phrases and magical elements but a dark and twisty plot. Very original.

Was this review helpful?

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line is a hard read, not because the prose is intricate or the plot overly complex. Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line is a hard read because it takes what to many of us are abstract wrongs—huge inequalities in wealth; indifferent law enforcement; the vulnerabilities of children, especially those who are poor—and makes those wrongs concrete. The novel is set in India. While many of its details are specific to India, the issues it wrestles with are more global.

Children are disappearing from a basti (a poor neighborhood) located within sight of the apartment towers of the very rich. After the first disappearance, Jai, a fan of television cop shows, decides he will play detective and bring his classmate home. He discovers inequities and dangers that he hadn't imagined and wrestles with questions of fairness and community.

To avoid "spoilers," I don't want to say more about the plot, but I do want to speak a bit about the narrative voices Anappara creates. The primary voice is Jai's, and like him, it is distractable, immature, and changeable. At times, readers may be frustrated by how far off track Jai's perceptions of the world seem or how foolhardy his actions are—but the voice rings true. Other parts of the novel are written in third person, but in ways that embrace the perspective of the different characters depicted. In all these voices we hear a longing for something more hopeful, more stable—and realize how unlikely such hope and stability are.

I receive a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley. The opinions are my own.

(I am also posting my review on LibraryThing and Edelweiss and will post it on Amazon when it is released.)

Was this review helpful?

For the first few pages of the book I tried to look up the unfamiliar Hindu words that I ran across but found that to be a completely unproductive exercise. At that point I just gave myself up to the mystery and exoticism of this beautifully written novel and found that the unfamiliar was no impediment to the story. That story is, told through the eyes of children, of a series of child abductions in a slum of an unnamed town in India. I loved this book! Throughout, despite the horror of the most frightening of events in a place with conditions most would consider appalling, there a sense of humanity and a tender spirit when described by the child narrator.

Was this review helpful?