Existentialism for Teens

Tina's Mouth

 

Not all young adult lit is vampires and dystopian future worlds. Some deal with plain old-fashioned teen angst.  Case in point: "Tina's Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary" by Keshni Kashyap. Even adult readers will enjoy this trip back to the tumultuous world of teenage drama. Tina is a 15-year-old Indian-American, living in California, dealing with all the usual teenage afflictions--being different, losing friends to the popular crowd, and of course, discovering and losing first love.

The book is written as a series of illustrated journal entries addressed to Jean-Paul Sartre. The diary is a project for Tina's English Honors elective on existential philosophy, in which she attempts to answer the weighty question "who am I really?"

Tina's sense of humor and sarcasm make the material relatable for adults and younger readers alike. The title, "Tina's Mouth," might seem odd, but it ties into Tina's quest for self-awareness. Early on, readers learn of Tina's desire to be kissed...her preoccupation with mouths leads to an interesting story about Krishna, as told by one of Tina's aunties. As a baby, Krishna's mother found him playing in the forest. When she bent down to pick him up, she glimpsed the entire universe inside his mouth. The longer she looked, the many more universes she saw. The moral, Urvashi Auntie says pointing at Tina's mouth, "always remember what lies in here. This heavenly and great expanse. Be true to yourself." It's refreshing to see a young, female character do just this.

--Jennifer M., Headquarters

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