When I was asked to review Nandhika Nambi’s Unbroken, I jumped at the chance of reading a book from the perspective of a teenager who is in a wheelchair. I had seen how the lives of paraplegics are in the movie Guzaarish and the book Me Before You, but they weren’t narrating their own stories like Akriti does in Unbroken. And I have a soft spot for YA so here I’m. The first person point of view has its limitations but here it is an advantage; we go straight into the heart of the matter. If you are expecting a story where everything works out in the end and Akriti miraculously recovers, then this is not the book for you. Her disability is permanent and she has to find a way to live with it. Akriti is in 11th standard. She is sarcastic and spews out hate on the world unable to come to terms with her condition. She is mean and cruel, especially to people, who are sympathetic to her. She could have been a normal grumpy teenager but the inability to do the simplest of things for herself, and having to depend on others, makes her angry.
I hated taking people’s help.
Akriti’s life is now divided into a before and after the accident where she lost the use of her legs. Life as she knew it was over. The sooner she accepts the reality and stops dwelling on the past, and focuses on getting the help she needs in the present, the better she will deal with the reality. Unbroken shows that to completely heal, you have to go inward and face your deepest fears/demons.
Akriti is completely closed off to the person she was before and takes the people who care for her for granted. To actually care for someone is a painful thing to her, so a great way of avoiding future pain is detaching herself from everything that matters.
Her Amma is caring and sympathetic to her plight as her caregiver but Akriti thinks she is weak because she let’s her get away with bad behavior. Ranjith her younger brother is a model son and ever helpful, which infuriates her further. Her Appa doesn’t put up with her nonsense and is the only person she is scared of. He doesn’t go easy on her just because she is in a wheelchair.
Akriti hates sticking out like a sore thumb for something which isn’t under her control. She desperately wants to be normal (the way she was before the accident) for the sake of blending in, but this is her new normal.
I wheeled myself through the corridor. Being alone in a crowded place didn’t bother me; it was the awkward stares that made me punch everybody in the face.
Unbroken deals with such a serious subject matter but it is narrated without a semblance of pity. You try to sympathize with Akriti but she makes it very hard. The narrative voice is such that it is unexpectedly funny in many places when you see the world through her eyes.
The only magic I will ever believe in is a woman’s handbag and its endless capacity.
This is a book I felt strongly about but I wanted more. There’s only so much one can fit into a book meant for young adults. I recommend reading it for the unique perspective it offers, and to be aware of the difficulties people living with disability face on a daily basis. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more books by Nandhika Nambi.
I received a review copy from the publishers but the thoughts are my own. You can read the review here