Title: Karma for Beginners
Author: Jessica Blank
ISBN: 9781423117513
Pages: 305 pages
Publisher/Date: Hyperion, c2009.

I waited until we were in earshot of the register, and then I said: “You’re taking me out of my school and away from my friends and off to live in the cold woods with a bunch of people who worship some weird guy in orange robes. The least you can do is let me eat.”
I got the burger. (3)

Fourteen-year-old Tessa is not happy with this situation. You’d think she’d be used to her mom’s trippy hippy ways, raising her to be a vegetarian since birth and moving them to an ashram in the Catskills so she can find herself. Tessa absolutely hates it; the words that she doesn’t understand that everyone expects her to; the savi, which is just another word for job; and her mom’s absence just about everyday to go to meditation. Then she meets twenty-year-old Colin, a mechanic from the “outside” who works on the cars for the group. Colin exposes her to a whole new world, one she thinks she loves. But others in the ashram are watching her, even if her mother isn’t, and they’re not liking what they’re seeing.

I have to be honest, I didn’t like the description on the back of the book, which might have prejudiced me from the beginning. I didn’t like the cover either, a picture of the front dashboard of a car with beads hanging from the rearview mirror and two people can be seen almost kissing in the mirror. Maybe that influenced my impression, but I didn’t like the book. Tessa was whining throughout the whole process, and I disliked how she handled her situation. She seemed to like the concept of the ashram, just not the actual place. The ashram itself is portrayed like a cult, with the Guru being in charge, enforcing his rule by circuitous reasoning that he claims assists people in establishing enlightenment. For parents, there are sexual encounters, drug use, and scene of attempted rape, but I guess they are used to show Tessa’s growth spiritually and physically. The ending seems anticlimatic, with no real consequences for anyone’s actions. The tension is there between Tessa’s mom and Tessa, but it’s never really clearly defined or addressed.

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