And here are the reviews…
Selected as a 2008 Top 40 Young Adult Novel by the Pennsylvania School Librarian’s Association
From Publisher’s Weekly: Lamba makes an impressive debut with this contemporary novel introducing Sangeet, a 15-year-old Indian American girl who at times feels like the whole world is against her. The trouble begins when Chachi, Sangeet’s widowed aunt from India, moves in with the family. When some items—food, money and some personal belongings—disappear from the house, it’s obvious to Sangeet that Chachi is the thief, but Sangeet’s parents blame their daughter. To make things worse, Sangeet’s best friend, Gina, is inexplicably angry with her. Then there’s the matter of Jason, Sangeet’s crush, who acts like he’s interested in her but stands her up after they plan to meet at the skating rink. The harder Sangeet works to prove her integrity and innocence, the less she is trusted. However frustrating her situation, misunderstandings do pave the way to some very funny moments. (At one point, Sangeet’s parents are mistakenly convinced that she has an eating disorder, because snacks are missing from the cabinet, and Sangeet is forced to visit a therapist—who happens to be the father of one of her close friends.)… readers will find much to like in Lamba’s heroine, who ultimately survives a set of trials worthy of Job with grace and humor.
From Kirkus: Since Sang’s bossy aunt from India moved in with Sang’s family, it seems like she can’t do anything right; this is new for the 15-year-old girl, who’s used to perfect grades and praise for exemplary behavior. Fed up with her tyrannical aunt, whom Sang is ironically required to call Chachi, an Indian term of endearment, she decides to fight back. However, it’s immediately clear that Sang has underestimated Chachi and now, instead of ousting her aunt, Sang must defend her own reputation. It’s been jeopardized by a string of misunderstandings strategically exacerbated by Chachi that stand to ruin her relationships with her best friend, her secret crush and her family… readers become intimate with Sang through her thoughts and the creative bedtime fairy tales she weaves for her little sister…adding detail and depth to the text is the influence of Sang’s father’s Indian heritage, which naturally integrates not only elements like traditional Indian foods, but also cultural beliefs relating to family and dating. Realistic and well-paced.
From School Library Journal: Sangeet, 15, is the daughter of an Indian father and American mother. Her suburban Philadelphia life is getting complicated. An aunt is living at her house, stealing her stuff and turning her family against her; her best friend isn’t talking to her; a lost schedule book leads to plummeting grades; her parents think she is bulimic; and she has boy troubles galore. The teen’s family life and struggles will resonate with readers of all backgrounds, and fans of Narinder Dhami’s “Bindi Babes” books (Delacorte) will enjoy this more mature, American take on similar issues. Lamba puts the present, first-person narrative to good use… teens will enjoy the interesting cast of characters and the book will have broad appeal, leaving readers wanting more.–Cara von Wrangel Kinsey, New York Public Library
From daily newspaper The Wichita Eagle: “What I Meant…” by Marie Lamba (Random House, ages 10-16, $16.99) is a stunning debut novel… Lamba writes a hilarious account of teen life in a bicultural family that young readers will easily relate to. Her characters and plot lines are convincingly honest and realistic. Eventually, Sang is able to tell everyone exactly what she means, and in doing so, gives her family a chance to get back to some semblance of normal – whatever that is.
Intermix.org (www.intermix.org.uk) in England says: What I Meant… is a hilarious and accessible story for teens about the universal experience of feeling misunderstood…about normal young adult problems and family life in a small town, it’s full of humour, personality and warm feelings. Teenagers will get it straight away and funnily enough so will parents. This is a book you won’t be able to put down. Marie Lamba has been able to capture the teenage experience to such an extent that even adults will become engrossed. It’s a great way for parents and teenagers to learn more about themselves and each other.
BOOKLIST Reviewer Hazel Rochman says, “…spies and secrets make for great drama, and many readers will not be able to get enough of Sang’s hilarious, angry, hip narrative about her diverse family and friends.”
From Arlene Lynes, Owner, Read Between the Lynes Bookshop, Woodstock, IL, on the store’s website: Perfect summer read! What I Meant… by Marie Lamba is a Young Adult novel set in Pennsylvania. This is the story of Sang, the 15 year old middle child born to an American mother and Indian father. It is extremely well written and I still am amazed at how the author is right in the mindset of the adolescent and the choices she makes in the many situations she finds herself in…I was entranced to learn bits and pieces of Indian culture, as well as to see how our heroine would manage all that was on her plate. I was not disappointed.
Teenbookreviewer.blogspot.com says, What I Meant…is an engaging and funny first novel from a talented author. In Sang, Marie Lamba creates a three-dimensional character with her own unique voice that she just can’t make people hear over the lies of her Chachi. The rest of the colorful cast of characters populating this novel are equally well-developed…it is certainly worth reading and well-written, with its relatable protagonist (who, by the way is half Indian and half Italian—but this is not an “issue” book about being biracial, it’s just a good book about a regular fifteen year old girl who happens to have that background) making this novel quite enjoyable.
From an Asiansofmixedrace.com review: Marie Lamba’s phenomenal debut What I Meant . . . will have you captivated with its drama, touches of Indian culture, and the trials and tribulations of a biracial teenage girl. This YA novel is definitely for all ages.
In www.storycircle.org, Reviewer Linda Wisniewski writes: Sangeet Jumnal, the heroine of What I Meant…, is a fifteen-year-old who can’t get her family to believe her. In this debut young adult novel, she pulls through with humor and courage.
Some of the main characters are ethnic and the book includes interesting touches of Indian culture, but it’s not about being Indian or even about being bi-racial. Sang is a normal American teenager, with an Indian father, and that’s one of the book’s strongest points. The author skillfully weaves modern young adult problems with colorful detail about family life in a small town… They wrestle with issues like grades, popularity and high school cliques. They worry about the myriad of bewildering choices facing teens today, including alcohol, Goth attire and body piercing. The girls, especially, are fully-developed characters with brains and personality. When they devote too much time to teen gossip magazines and worry about getting boyfriends, some of them even think it’s funny. In other words, they are real and likeable young women.
After the first few pages, I couldn’t put the book down. It’s easy reading while still leaving you with thought-provoking questions. Can the “stuff they believe in India,” as Sang says, “like respecting your elders even if they’re complete jerks,” cause problems? Can wanting to rescue a friend land you in unforeseen danger?…The situation is written with humor and respect for all parties, young, old and in between. The author clearly knows her stuff…If you have a young teen or were one yourself, pick up a copy. It’s fun, it’s fast and it will leave you with some questions you’ll want to discuss with the nearest young adult.