What's Your Problem? by Bali Rai
Racism is the core theme of Bali Rai's hard-hitting teenage novel, which follows the experiences of Jas, a fourteen-year-old Asian boy, who has just moved into a village near Nottingham with his family.
At his previous school in Leicester, Jas had met racism but, with plenty of fellow Asians around, there was safety in numbers. Now he finds himself alone in a small, white community and is ill equipped to deal with the constant name calling of fellow pupils at his new school.
What's more many of the villagers of all ages who shop at his father's newsagent's are members of the Brotherhood of the White Fist (BWF), a racist organisation that hounds and threatens immigrants.
Jas feels alone. He is unable to make his parents understand how wretched he feels in the village and cannot accept his father's passive way of dealing with the racist bullies in the shop
Although he makes a few friends at school and has a kindly form tutor, Jas feels he cannot confide in them about the abuse he is subjected to every day particularly from Steggsy, the ringleader. He cannot understand why someone like him who was born in the UK can be shunned just because their skin colour
'I spoke the same language as they did. I liked the same bands and computer games. I mostly ate the same food too – burgers, chips, pizzas and all that. And I bet they all ate curry'
Everything comes to a head when Steggsy takes exception to Jas's growing relationship with Jemma, his stepsister, and is determined to 'get the Paki'. What happens from then on shows just how ingrained and deep-rooted racial hatred can be and what it takes for Jas to turn his back on the village once and for all
It is a book that would provide a valuable starting point for a classroom discussion on the themes of racism and social injustice.