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Ellie Pillai is Brown – Christine Pillainayagam

Thank you so much to the publishers, Faber Faber, for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!

My name is Ellie. Ellie Pillai . . . And I suppose I am a little bit weird, but then, aren’t we all, just a little bit?

Most days, Ellie Pillai is somewhere between invisible, and not very cool – and usually she’s okay with that. But suddenly, Ellie feels different. Maybe it’s the new boy at school who makes her brain explode into rainbows every time she sees him (and also happens to be going out with her best friend), or maybe it’s her new drama teacher, the one who seems to have noticed she exists. Suddenly, her misfit style, her skin colour, her songwriting and all that getting lost in the music in her head seem to be okay too. Because maybe standing out isn’t a bad thing after all.

Ellie Pillai is Brown is Christine Pillainayagam’s debut novel and it is excellent! It is funny, lively and the sort of story that highlights what it means to find your voice and truly be yourself. I will definitely be recommending this one to a lot of people.

Ellie, our main character, is a very gifted musician and is secretly taking drama classes at school. Her parents think she is doing GCSE computer science when in reality she has dropped this for drama. She is keeping this big secret which she knows is bound to have consequences if her parents find out.

I loved the journey of self-discovery that Ellie goes on throughout this book. Ellie wants to stay true to herself and what she wants to achieve throughout her life. As readers, we get to see her journey to this. She faces a number obstacles on her path of self-discovery but she perseveres and it is lovely to read about. Ellie also feels like she doesn’t ‘blend’ into the society around her. Her race and the journey this has led her on play a huge role in this story and it is discussed throughout in an excellent way. It shows how judgements of others and rules put in place by society can affect who you are and how you go through life.

One of my favourite this about this book is how there is music woven throughout the entire story. Firstly, there are a number of references made to bands from across the decades which was a lot of fun. On top of that, there is actually an album written by the author that accompanies this book. Throughout the book are QR codes that take you to a song, which links to the section of the book you are reading. I loved getting to the end of a chapter and finding a QR code. It was so much fun to finish a chapter and then listen to the song Ellie has written about the events in that chapter. The mixing of both reading and music written purposely for the book is unique and something I want to see a lot more of.

This is a debut novel that truly blew me away. Christine Pillainaygam’s writing is funny, charismatic and heart-warming. This novel highlights friendship, what it means to truly be yourself and find the confidence to be yourself. I cannot wait to see what else this author writes in the future because I will be sure to pick it up.

Overall, Ellie Pillai is Brown is a marvellous and funny debut novel that I cannot recommend enough. So many people will relate to Ellie’s journey in some way. The addition of music in this novel is so unique and brought so much to the story. I would highly recommend you pick this debut YA up as soon as possible!

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