See what they're saying about the Bollywood Academy booksals!
We've been lucky to be reviewed by top industry professionals. See a selection of them here...
KIRKUS review of Melody Queen
Boarding school life with a dusting of stardust.
Simi loves everything about music but especially making it. Yet, even at the tender age of 12, her path at Bollywood Academy near Mumbai has already been decided: She’s meant to be acting in Hindi films, a dream that she has inherited from her parents, who are part of Telugu cinema in South India. When the new school year starts, Simi finds herself caught between her own hopes and aspirations and the realities of her parents’ wishes. Even worse, she confronts the gender inequality that exists in the music industry. There’s also the virality of social media, the ardent friendships that are formed in boarding schools, and the petty jealousies and rivalries that manifest in this highly competitive field even if you’re a tweenager—not to mention the razzle-dazzle of stardom—all rolled up in one book. While keeping the spotlight firmly on Simi, the book manages to do justice to all the fairly privileged characters rattling about in a fairly privileged school that’s meant to get them ready to enter an often nepotistic industry, giving each of them space to develop and come into their own without the story feeling too cluttered. The problems facing child actors aside, the book highlights entrenched biases in the film industry while also being a fun, breezy read.
Much ado about Bollywood in this glamour-filled story featuring strong characterization.
SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL review of Melody Queen
In the second book of the “Bollywood Academy” series, 12-year-old Simi is attending the prestigious academy to become a famous actor, just like her show-biz father. While Simi’s family members want her to excel in acting, she is more interested in music and spends her free time composing pieces and participating in a band. As she learns more about the music industry, she confronts gender inequalities in a profession that has been dominated by men, watching as her male classmates get opportunities that she isn’t offered. When one of her compositions goes viral on Instagram and the whole world is singing along, she decides to keep the fact that it was her song a secret from her family and friends. Readers will enjoy these glimpses into the glamorous music and entertainment industries while learning more about the behind-the-scenes friendships and rivalries in a highly competitive world.
VERDICT Fans of show business will cheer Simi along as she tries to find her place in both the Bollywood music industry and among her fellow students.
THE GUARDIAN review of Starlet Rivals
Bela dreams of Bollywood stardom – but can a girl from her less than privileged background have a chance of winning the national Dance Starz competition, and a place at a prestigious Mumbai stage school? A deliciously readable addition to the stage-school story canon for song-and-dance fans of 7+.
BOOKTRUST review of Starlet Rivals (Debut of the Month)
Starlet Rivals is a fast-paced, energetic tale that allows young readers to join the ups and downs of sudden fame and talent school life. From gasping at Monica’s dirty tricks to cheering Bela on as she grows in confidence, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the tale. Not only is the book bursting with glamour and excitement, it also has thoughtful messages about the perils of the limelight and the importance of doing the right thing. A delightful page-turner.
LOVE READING 4 SCHOOLS review of Starlet Rivals
Everything readers could want – dream-come-true film opportunities, stays in the most glamorous locations, new friendships and the tiniest hint of romance. And then there’s Monica too, born into Bollywood royalty and determined that Bela is not going to get any of the spotlight she feels is hers by right. The rivalry between them, and Monica’s dirty tricks, gives an added thrill to the story. Young readers who love Ballet Shoes or The Swish of the Curtain, or who dream of stage stardom, or those who just love stories with great characters in exciting situations, they’ll all devour this new series. Applause all round! ANDREA REECE
PICTUREBOOK SNOB review of Starlet Rivals
Boarding school, betrayal and Bollywood glamour – this book has it all. The first in this brand new series is a riveting, rapturous read that's every bit as captivating as a show-stopping Bollywood dance. This is such an enjoyable book even if, like me, you're not hugely familiar with the world of Bollywood. I love the aesthetics and the passion of what I have seen. The mention of Bollywood had me intrigued and I wasn't disappointed. There are lots more reasons to love Starlet Rivals, but here are our top five...
1. The ending It might seem strange to mention the ending before anything else but the ending is what I loved most. I'm not going to give anything away but it is pure genius and so uplifting. It shows girls supporting one another instead of bringing each other down and demonstrates how we can fly higher when we raise each other up (even if technically we are 'enemies'!). I was reading this while sharing a room with two sleeping children and it was so hard not to whoop and cheer as I reached the finale; it's extremely comical as well as surprising. The ending is also incredibly cinematic – as is the whole book – and I would love to see it screened either as a movie or a Netflix series.
2. It's set in a boarding school From Malory Towers to Hogwarts, boarding school settings are always so appealing. And Bollywood Academy features the chance to find fame, amazing and unique classes, inspiring teachers, interesting students from all over the world and the best friends you could ask for, as well as inventive and charismatic villains.
3. It takes readers behind the scenes in Bollywood From makeup and costume to choreography, elaborate sets and even bigger egos, we get to see it all. Puneet Bhandal's masterful writing conveys all the excitement of being present at a film production so much that we feel we could be there ourselves. Instead of chapters, we have 'takes' which is an excellent touch that adds to the atmosphere, and I love how the book concludes with the line, 'It's a wrap.' It's brilliant how many of the exotic locations are real places. And the exhilarating backdrop combines with expert pacing to make Bela's meteoric rise all the more compelling.
4. It's an underdog story Bela is an outsider trying to break into an elite and close-knit world that's filled with nepotism and privilege. She hasn't been raised on a film set like many of her classmates and isn't from an affluent background either. All of this makes Bela more relatable and gives the reader reasons to root for her. The odds against Bela make her whirlwind transformation even more satisfying and each of her successes extra triumphant.
5. Bela is an amazing character From her accomplished dancing to her witty retorts, how assertive and determined she is without ever being pushy or narcissistic, how flawed and human she is as well as how kind-hearted, Bela is just terrific. Readers will want to be like her and want a friend like her too. Despite the often overwhelming experiences, Bela never loses sight of who she is or what's important. Even when at an all-time low, Bela doesn't waste time feeling sorry for herself. She understands that, 'with opportunities come hardships,' and that despite some setbacks, she is 'growing and learning.' She's not afraid to take risks and manages to say all the things you wished you could be quick enough to say in response to nasty comments. She is exceptionally kind and loyal, and even when she gets the chance for revenge, she takes the higher ground. I loved Bela so much and felt remarkably invested in everything that happened to her. Bela's own friends, Sophie, Tara and Priyanka, are also wonderful and I found the villainous Monica irresistible too. I really cannot wait to find out what happens to Bela next and to read more about everyone and everything in Bela's universe. The beautiful cover design and the interior artwork by Jen Katun also deserve a mention - aren't they gorgeous? They really help immerse the reader in Bela's world too.
TOPPSTA review of Starlet Rivals
We really enjoyed this story. My daughter loves dancing and singing. We also watched Britain's Got Talent very recently so it was a very relatable storyline. My daughter was willing Bella to win the final and then win a place at the stage school. The setting for the story was fascinating and gave us a glimpse into some of the places in India (Mumbai and Rajasthan) as well as the world of Bollywood! We thoroughly enjoyed going on Bela's journey with her. I think my daughter will be even keener to take part in an audition for a show now!
SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL review of Starlet Rivals
“Fans of dance and show business will enjoy this look into Bollywood and cheer for Bela as she starts to finds her way in this new world.”— School Library Journal