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Count Me In by Varsha Bajaj

Nancy Paulsen Books
(Penguin Young Readers)

Release date:
August 27th, 2019

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Buzz for Count Me In

"Count Me In is a gem of a book, both funny and heartbreaking in equal measure. With its deeply moving portrayal of the healing power of empathy, this is an important and necessary story." - Aisha Saeed, author of the New York Times bestseller Amal Unbound

"It wouldn’t surprise me at all if this heartfelt novel started a movement of its own! Readers will want to stand up and cheer for Karina and Chris and Papa, and shout to every corner of the world, 'COUNT ME IN!'" - Kathi Appelt, author of the Newbery Honor winner The Underneath

Karina knows hate crimes happen everywhere . . . but she never imagined she'd face one herself.

Karina isn't friends with Chris, the boy next door. Why would she want to be, when the guys he hangs out with act like a pack of rude laughing hyenas? But when her grandfather starts tutoring Chris and the three of them begin spending time together, she's happy to discover that Chris is not at all like she expected him to be. He actually has a mind of his own and is thoughtful and funny. Becoming friends with him is one of the big surprises of her middle school life.

Then something unthinkable happens - a stranger assaults them, targeting her Indian American grandfather, who gets badly injured. Karina and Chris are devastated but vow not to let hate win.

When Karina's moving social media posts about the attack go viral and the press descends, she and Chris have to decide how they will use their newfound fame. It's intimidating to speak out - but how can they not?

Varsha Bajaj's compelling story celebrates finding one's voice in tough times, and a community rallying to support its people.

Sneak Peek

"What made you share your pictures of what happened on your photo feed?" Mrs. Maxwell asks.

"I wanted people to be as outraged as me at the way Papa was treated," I say. "The story needed to be told. It's important because I love my country, but I don't like this hateful side of it. And for me, I feel I tell better stories with my pictures than I do with words."

"You’re pretty good with words too." Mrs. Maxwell smiles wide. "What did you mean when you used the hashtag 'Count Me In'?"

I take a minute and breathe. “It means that I cannot be quiet anymore. Count on me to speak up."