This eBook was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Review: Capturing Jasmina by Kimberly Rae is a young adult Christian novel about an Indian girl’s struggle to escape human trafficking and rejoin her family. I requested this book in the hope that it would be eye-opening to a world I know little about. I wanted to learn more about India’s culture and get a better understand human trafficking. In short, wanted a book that would make me cry.
That’s not what I got.
Right off the bat the novel rubbed me the wrong way in its speaker. Jasmina consistently crossed out words in favor of other words, as one would in writing a letter with pen, but rather than make her voice more realistic, the technique had the opposite effect.
I also felt like the author didn’t address Indian culture as well as she should’ve. One of the most interesting things for me about Christian literature is hearing how other cultures respond to missionaries. This book over-simplified it by speaking very little about Indian (specifically Hindu) culture in the first place, so it felt like Jasmina was less a young Hindu girl and more a figure conjured my Christian missionaries in their search to convert.
Don’t get me wrong here; I support missionary work. I’ve been on a few mission trips myself. But I know that we Christians tend to imagine other cultures as desperate to hear about our God, and while this is sometimes true, other cultures are not without their own beliefs. We cannot allow ourselves to be deluded into seeing natives as evil and missionaries as good. There are also natives who are good and missionaries who are evil–just look in a world history textbook.
And yet Rae seems to encourage that misguided viewpoint, particularly when Jasmina meets missionary women:
“There were people in the world who wanted to do good instead of evil. There were people who cared about something more than money and power. Who would not use others for their own gain.
Impossible. My mind said not to believe a word. To harden up again and hold tight to hate. But my heart—oh, my heart wanted to think there was hope.”
I know this is Christian literature, but I expect to see more understanding of other people and more understanding of ourselves. Everyone sins, but that is difficult to see in this book, where the natives sin but the missionaries are depicted as faultless. I am sure this was not Rae’s intent, but it feels that way nonetheless.
While the treatment of other cultures was my main quarrel with this book, I’m also thought the overall quality of plot and characterization was poor. I read this with the desire to learn more, but I feel like I knew more about Indian culture and human trafficking than the author. None of the characters felt real to me, so I struggle to sympathize with their struggles.
Jasmina’s main motivation, for example, was to find her family. But her family–with the exception of her mother–didn’t treat her well at all. And she didn’t speak of longing to return to her mother’s comfort, but of wanting to return her brother to safety and learn if her father knew what he had done when he sold her.
There were a lot of loose ends in the story, as well. Like why would Jasmina’s father sell his son, as well? What happened to her family? How could she write letters to her brother if she didn’t know where he was and if he couldn’t even read?
I see that this book is part of a series, but these loose ends don’t interest me enough to prompt further reading.
Since there was little to no graphic material in spite of the dark subject matter, I think it’s appropriate for middle schoolers and up, if you really must read it.
For someone interested in learning more about Indian culture, I recommend Michelle Moran’s Rebel Queen instead.