Aru Shah and the End of Time is one of those middle grade reads which are heart warming and resonate with you. It reminds you of past mistakes, but also our power to fix them.
Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she’ll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur?
One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru’s doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don’t believe her claim that the museum’s Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again.
But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it’s up to Aru to save them.
The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?
Aru Shah and the End of Time is about that feeling of when you need to compensate to give your life color – to lie in order to fit into the crowd. I think we’ve all felt that way at one point in our lives. The desire to fit in, when we laugh along, smiling and nodding because the fear of being cast out is too great. But at the same time it raises questions about our origins, our stories, and our place within them.
Aru is a fabulous narrator from the beginning. She’s got to be one of my favorite in the whole middle grade world because she has a wry sense of humor that directly translates into the story and her point of view. While also being so relatable in her vulnerability. Not to mention, the journey she goes on is one where Aru has to believe in herself, her potential, and be trusting.
Aru Shah and the End of Time is a story about finding the key, the solution, in stories. It’s a love letter to the way they instruct us, give us clues, moments of wisdom when we need it the most. It is rich in Hindu mythology, a story of quests for magical keys, of trying to find ourselves and prove our value. When we are scared of being second, of not being worthy, but how we can find ourselves in friendship. It asks us about fate and destiny. If these powerful forces makes us into people we aren’t, and where our agency lies.