13-year-old Nikhil Verma is a star. Literally. Two years ago, after a nationwide casting call, he won the coveted role of undercover, intergalactic teen detective Raj Reddy on America’s now hit cartoon, Raj Reddy in Outer Space. His lopsided grin has graced the cover of Teen Vogue. He’s been slimed at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards...twice! And when he came out publicly on the RROS official Instagram account, the post exploded with rainbow-colored heart emojis.
Life is pretty stellar. Until Nikhil’s grandfather falls unexpectedly ill, and Nikhil’s Mom decides to move them back to the small Ohio town she grew up in. Raj Reddy in Outer Space can be recorded remotely. But life in Ohio is far from normal for Nikhil. For every new classmate that hits him up for a selfie, there’s another who resents his success. Especially current class star DeSean Hill, who lives just down the street from Nikhil’s grandparents, and has that oh-so-perfect singing voice. When auditions come around for the school musical, the lead seems tailored for DeSean, but the ambitious drama teacher wants Nikhil’s name on the poster. Nikhil’s worried the whole school will think he’s a fraud if they find out he has terrible stage fright.
The thing is, Nikhil Verma is not just a star. He’s also a 13-year-old kid who’s as nervous as any other 13-year-old would be about meeting a whole new class of 8th graders. When Nikhil finds the power in his own voice, he’ll discover that the 8th grade isn’t about soaring into outer space, but landing with both feet right here on planet Earth.
🌟“Pancholy’s sophomore effort is a layered coming-of-age tale, melding puberty’s woes with familial expectations and grief. Unresolved tensions rise quickly in his Gujarati Nana and Nani’s household as the family members get reacquainted with each other but also pave the way for some truly tender moments. The sweet, peck-on-the-cheek–level romance is delightfully middle school—as is the squeeworthy joy alongside more difficult moments. A timely affirmation that hate has no place in school.” –Kirkus Starred Review