Author: Maniissh Aroraa
There are books that one reads to be cruised into the realms of intellectuality. There are books that one reads to be hurtled down into the lanes of light-hearted moorings. And then there are books that being fictions and yet simple, make one segue into the streams of meaningful narratives. “Sunshine Town” by the author Maniissh Aroraa is one such book which falls in the third category.
The story revolves around Shlok, a happy go lucky teenager , who doesn’t want much from his life. He just wants to make his parents happy and get the affection of his neighbourhood sweetheart Natasha. Though both of them are poles apart, their interests bring them close. However, life has something different in store for Shlok. Unable to crack an entrance exam and juggling a long-distance relationship, Shlok’s life goes through an upheaval. He is confronted with a recurring question- Is he good enough for anything? Also, he is faced with a decision to give up on everything he thought was right for him. What will Shlok do in such a situation? Will he be able to maintain his relationship with Natasha, and fulfil his goals at the same time? This forms the storyline.
The first thing that I liked about this book was its bright glazed front cover, which aptly suits the story. The cover shows sunrays emanating from the ghats of Varanasi, with a boy sitting on a boat and an aeroplane flying in the sky. This reflects Shlok, who has great dreams to touch the sky, which is represented by the aeroplane but is still grounded to his roots and loves his city, cruising in the quintessential boats that so characterise Varanasi. However, the blurb at the back cover gives up too much about the story and should’ve been more balanced and less revelatory to keep the readers guessing.
The narrative is well written, with a good amount of detailing put in the storyline. These descriptive musings are certainly needed at places to take the plot forward, but these could have been done away with at some places. The plot of Shlok and Natasha’s innocuous love is a gentle breeze, and the whole premise of the story where he takes on life’s challenges and emerges victorious makes for a good read.
The characterisation has been done in an apt manner, with the characters well detailed and the simultaneous authenticity in the scenes and narrative; the setup being Varanasi during the late 90s, before the pervasiveness of technology. This can be seen in instances such as how Shlok and Natasha meet for their romantic get-togethers and the indulgence in gardening as a hobby, by which Shlok showcases his love for nature and also love for Natasha, by gifting her roses from his garden.
This is a book that is different from the books that are normally published for teenagers and young adults, for it deals with the themes of love, but also themes of career, the grit and determination of achieving goals, teenage emotions and personal fulfilment. It also addresses the issue of teenage depression due to career choices and the associated ordeal and should be picked by parents too. It should be read by people who are interested in such a genre, and anybody who is contemplating on reading something simple and meaningful. The seasoned readers should also read this book to know how stories with such a good heart can be written in an amazing, yet simple manner.