Count Me In by Varsha Bajaj is a novel about an Indian-American girl named Karina who lives in Texas with her parents. One day, her grandmother dies and her grandfather comes to live with them. Karina and her friend, Chris, are just walking along with Papa when a man approaches the three of them and starts spewing hateful comments. The man assaults the grandfather, leaving him injured. Karina posts her experience witnessing a hate crime on social media, utilizing her love of photography to convey her message, and eventually her story catches fire.
Bajaj demonstrated the way to write a childrens’ book, but simultaneously include mature themes and filtered touches of exposure to adult content consisting of hate speech/crime. Karina is a physical embodyment of strength. She is centered around family and has an extroverted personality.
One example of appropriately-presented themes is the people at her middle school. Some were supportive of her throughout the aftermath, but others were not very kind. Bajaj didn’t overplay anything or include too much hate speech, which made for a more apropriate book for younger kids.
Another instance of her “PG-ification” is when Varsha highlights the kindness and compassion in Karina’s supporters. Ages ranged from children and teens around her age to seniors. The hashtag “Count Me In” is used throughout the plethora of social media posts to symbolize counting all kinds of people into the conversation. A conversation of not just tolerance, but acceptance, and that America is for everyone.
The appropriate age ranges from 5th grade all the way up to 8th. Count Me In provides a young audience with a beautiful story of acceptance and love. Count Me In may remind you of The Hate U Give or other novels by Angie Thomas. All have the same themes of acceptance and inclusion.