Author: Michelle Kadarusman
Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary
Publisher: Pajama Press
Release Date: August 16, 2022
An honest and stirring novel about the choices made by young environmental activists, and the balancing act between consequence and triumph
Malia has had a privileged upbringing in Indonesia, but since her Indonesian father died, her Canadian mother wants to return to her own family on the other side of the world. Malia is determined to stay. Indonesia is her home, and she loves it. Besides, if she leaves, how can she continue to fight for her country’s precious rainforests?
Ari knows he is lucky to be going to school and competing on the chess team, even if it means an endless round of chores at his uncle’s restaurant. Back in his home village, he and his cousin Suni dreamed about getting a chance like this. But now he is here without her, and the guilt is crushing him. As if that weren’t enough, he’s horribly worried about Ginger Juice, his uncle’s orangutan. The too-small cage where she lives is clearly hurting her body and her mind, but where else can she go? The rainforest where she was born is a palm oil plantation now.
In Berani, Governor General’s Award finalist Michelle Kadarusman spins together three perspectives: Malia, who is prepared to risk anything for her activism, Ari, who knows the right path but fears what it will cost, and Ginger Juice, the caged orangutan who still remembers the forest and her mother. The choices the young people make will have consequences for themselves, for Ginger Juice, and for others, if they are brave enough—or reckless enough—to choose.
Malia has lived a privileged life in Indonesia, but after the death of her father, her mother wants to return to her home of Canada. If Malia leaves Indonesia, she can’t continue her activism to stop deforestation. However, when a school project backfires and puts her future in jeopardy, Malia wonders if moving to Canada is a good idea after all. Meanwhile, Ari moved in with his uncle to have the opportunity to go to school and compete in chess tournaments. At his uncle’s restaurant, an orangutan named Ginger Juice has been kept in a cage since she was a baby. After finding out that it’s illegal to keep an orangutan as a pet, Ari wants to get some help for Ginger Juice, but that means going against his uncle and maybe getting him in trouble.
Malia and Ari had to face moral dilemmas in this story. Malia gave a presentation and passed out a petition without her teacher’s permission which put her teacher’s job in jeopardy. Her teacher could get her job back, if Malia admitted she was wrong, but she was conflicted about going against what she believes in. Ari wanted to get help for Ginger Juice, but he didn’t want his uncle to get in trouble for holding her in captivity for so long. Luckily their stories had positive outcomes, but these are moral dilemmas that kids can face once they learn about issues in the world.
This was a touching and emotional story. Ginger Juice’s had a narrative which told her perspective from in the cage and from the rainforest before she went to live with Ari’s uncle. It was quite disturbing to hear her talk about how her home was destroyed and she was taken away from her mother to live in captivity. Though it was hard to read, it’s important to read these types of stories because they reflect real world problems.
Berani is a beautiful middle grade story.
Thank you Pajama Press for sending me a copy of this book!
What to read next:
Music for Tigers by Michelle Kadarusman
Girl of the Southern Sea by Michelle Kadarusman
Have you read Berani? What did you think of it?