About the Book

India, 1947. In a matter of months, the country will be divided along religious lines into two separate states. All of India waits anxiously–but three young people have other pressing matters at hand: Tariq, a Muslim born and raised in India, is determined to scheme his way to Oxford; Margaret, a cartographer’s daughter, is in India to escape a scandal back home; and beautiful Anupreet struggles just to survive the daily violence and mayhem.

Muslim, English, Sikh. They are all on wildly different paths. But they are also on the verge of changing one another’s lives forever. Set against the backdrop of the nearly forgotten history of the partition of India, this is a heart-pounding tale of love, violence, and history–and the difference one person can make in the life of another.

Behind the Book

This novel was born out of my experiences teaching in the Punjab region of India while on a Fulbright exchange in 2005. The scars of the partition–the separation of India and Pakistan into independent states after the British ceded control of India in 1947–are still very near the surface. The novel is a small slice of what life might have been like for three very different people caught up in this tumultuous time.

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Awards and Honors

  • A Junior Library Guild Selection
  • Kirkus Best Book of the Year
  • ALA/YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults 2014
  • 2014 South Asia Book Award Winner
  • SCBWI Crystal Kite Award Finalist–West Region
Historical fiction that brings its history to bloody, poignant life: rare and notable.
Kirkus, Starred Review
Bradbury’s story, told from the alternating points of view of the three teens, does an excellent job of creating a setting that is at once vivid and dangerous.
Booklist
There are multiple narrators, but each character’s story is defined and intertwines with the others’ seamlessly. Historical background of postcolonial India is neatly inserted within the narrative, and market and street scenes teem with everyday life. The awkwardness the protagonists feel about interacting with one another is honestly and realistically drawn. Characters are fully fleshed out and are sympathetic in their struggles to find themselves within the new India. Back matter includes a glossary and an author’s note detailing Bradbury’s personal connection to India and a brief overview of the partition. As clashes continue between and within India and Pakistan, this title fills an important niche in YA historical fiction.
School Library Journal
Thrown into uncomfortable proximity, at once mutually sympathetic and uncomprehending, the three adolescents are swept back and forth in their loyalties as the streets outside boil with sectarian tension and the map makers rush to complete their work. “Lines are funny things. They make us feel safe,” Margaret reflects. “But they can also make us want, can make us bitter, wanting what lies on the other side of the line.” When violence strikes terrifyingly close on the eve of Partition, these three very different young people find themselves at a place of surprising unity.
The Wall Street Journal
From the first pages, tension seeps and then pours over the three teenage narrators…
The Seattle Times
Bradbury is equally adept at limning characters ill at ease with their own motivations and at infusing historical background smoothly into the interlocking teen mini-dramas. An historical note is appended, but most necessary background is seamlessly incorporated into the alternating chapters in the three teens’ voices, and readers who pick this up for the romantic triangle will come away with a surprising grasp of Britain’s withdrawal from the mighty flagship of its empire, and the tragic cost of the “population exchange” that accompanied independence.
The Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books
Jennifer Bradbury draws a roiling yet exquisite picture of both populations and individuals under siege. When Margaret, Tariq and Anupreet finally band together in a daring plan, their bravery is remarkable, and a battle cry for a better, more understanding future.
The New York Foundling Family Book Review

Testimonials

“Historical fiction that brings its history to bloody, poignant life: rare and notable.”
–Kirkus, Starred Review

“Bradbury’s story, told from the alternating points of view of the three teens, does an excellent job of creating a setting that is at once vivid and dangerous.”
–Booklist

“There are multiple narrators, but each character’s story is defined and intertwines with the others’ seamlessly. Historical background of postcolonial India is neatly inserted within the narrative, and market and street scenes teem with everyday life. The awkwardness the protagonists feel about interacting with one another is honestly and realistically drawn. Characters are fully fleshed out and are sympathetic in their struggles to find themselves within the new India. Back matter includes a glossary and an author’s note detailing Bradbury’s personal connection to India and a brief overview of the partition. As clashes continue between and within India and Pakistan, this title fills an important niche in YA historical fiction.”
–School Library Journal

“Thrown into uncomfortable proximity, at once mutually sympathetic and uncomprehending, the three adolescents are swept back and forth in their loyalties as the streets outside boil with sectarian tension and the map makers rush to complete their work. “Lines are funny things. They make us feel safe,” Margaret reflects. “But they can also make us want, can make us bitter, wanting what lies on the other side of the line.” When violence strikes terrifyingly close on the eve of Partition, these three very different young people find themselves at a place of surprising unity.”
–The Wall Street Journal

“From the first pages, tension seeps and then pours over the three teenage narrators…”
–The Seattle Times

“Three culturally disparate teens, caught in the perilous political drama of the 1947 partition of India, find their destinies irrevocably interlocked as they temporarily reside in the same household. Tariq, a Muslim, avidly accepts a position as assistant to Mr. Darnsley, a British cartographer working on the proposed boundary lines, in hope that his employer will recommend him for admission to Oxford. Anupreet, a homebody who shares her Sikh family’s traditional values, is urged by her family to work in the Darnsley residence, where she will presumably be safe from the kind of assault that left her scarred and shaken. Margaret Darnsley, the cartographer’s daughter, has been dragged to India by her parents until the scandal of her romance with an American soldier has sufficiently cooled. Margaret is smitten with Tariq and wouldn’t mind a fling; Tariq only has eyes for Anupreet but understands that their religious backgrounds render a relationship taboo; Anupreet finds her horizons expanding as she builds a cautious friendship with wild child Margaret, but she really just wants to go home. Then Tariq’s thuggish acquaintance Sameer corners him into playing a dangerous criminal-political game, the massacre of Anupreet’s relatives in a train hijacking radicalizes her brother and upsets the family balance, and Margaret’s ill-advised attempts at charity work cost a beggar child his limbs and nearly cost Anupreet and Tariq their lives. Bradbury is equally adept at limning characters ill at ease with their own motivations and at infusing historical background smoothly into the interlocking teen mini-dramas. An historical note is appended, but most necessary background is seamlessly incorporated into the alternating chapters in the three teens’ voices, and readers who pick this up for the romantic triangle will come away with a surprising grasp of Britain’s withdrawal from the mighty flagship of its empire, and the tragic cost of the “population exchange” that accompanied independence.”
–The Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books

“Drawing new borders on a map is one thing. The human consequences are another. As in multiple distant places under European occupation, India’s imminent independence brought with it the Partition of 1947, declaring a homeland for Sikhs and Hindus in the western part, called India, and a new country for Muslims, Pakistan,.to the east. Formerly peaceful neighbors turned against each other, murderous riots along religious lines erupted. Amidst the turmoil, one of the British cartographers faced with the daunting task of border-making is a Oxford educated man named Darnsley, and into his household in Jalandhar–joining his social-climbing wife and sexually restless daughter–come two new servants, handsome Tariq, a Muslim with aspirations to Oxford, and Anupreet, a beautiful Sikh girl with a vivid, mysterious scar down her face. While Mrs. Darnsley schemes to meet Lady Mountbatten, wife to the Viceroy of India, byzantine tensions, crushes, difficult decisions, jealousies and resentments surface among Margaret, Anupreet, and Tariq, who is also under pressure to join a shady Muslim gang. Jennifer Bradbury draws a roiling yet exquisite picture of both populations and individuals under siege. When Margaret, Tariq and Anupreet finally band together in a daring plan, their bravery is remarkable, and a battle cry for a better, more understanding future.”
–The New York Foundling Family Book Review