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Karma for Beginners

Karma for Beginners

4.5 4
by Jessica Blank

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Fourteen-year-old Tessa has never had a normal life. Her mother, a frustrated hippie with awful taste in men, has seen to that. But when her mom pulls her out of school to live at an ashram in the Catskills, Tessa goes from being a freak among normal people to being an outcast among freaks. Freaks who worship an orange robe-wearing guru. And while her mom is


Fourteen-year-old Tessa has never had a normal life. Her mother, a frustrated hippie with awful taste in men, has seen to that. But when her mom pulls her out of school to live at an ashram in the Catskills, Tessa goes from being a freak among normal people to being an outcast among freaks. Freaks who worship an orange robe-wearing guru. And while her mom is buzzing with spiritual energy, and finding a little too much favor with the guru, all Tessa feels are weird vibes.

Unless she's with Colin, the gorgeous boy who fixes trucks for the ashram. The connection they share is the most spiritual thing Tessa has ever felt. But he's older-like illegally older-and Tessa's taking dangerous risks to spend time with him. Soon her life is blooming into a psychedelic web of secrets and lies and it's clear that something's about to give way. When it does, will she have anyone to hold on to? Will she even know herself?

Revelations abound in this mind-altering novel from the acclaimed author of Almost Home.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Blank (Almost Home) pens a second tale involving drug abuse, absentee parenting and neglected teens flouting authority. As in her debut, she sets her sights on a fringe community-this time, a hippie cult-and catalogs life there, with mixed results. Many of her descriptions of communal life border on the cliché: waifish, beatific followers in flowing skirts and white robes, chanting sessions, daily seva ("selfless service," aka chores), a lecherous TV-watching guru, and touchy-feely mantras about surrendering desires and "Purity of Being." But 14-year-old Tessa's flight from her mother, who is desperate for a spiritual makeover, despite Tessa's misery on the commune, and into the willing arms of Colin, a 20-year-old who fixes broken VW buses on the ashram, strikes a nerve. While Tessa's clandestine relationship may initially seem deliciously rebellious and romantic to some, things quickly spiral out of control, both for Tessa and her mother, whose sexual connection to the guru is revealed. Eventually, wayward mother and daughter reunite, but not before unfortunate (and implausibly wrapped-up) lessons are learned on both ends. Ages 13-up.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Jody Little
Tessa is not pleased to be moving to an ashram in the Catskill's mountain, but she is used to her hippie mother's continual quest to find herself. Once they arrive, Tessa is assigned to work outdoors in the ashram's gardens where she meets Colin, a handsome twenty-year old mechanic from outside the ashram. Tessa is immediately attracted to Colin and she finds ways to break rules and continues to see him daily. While Tessa is getting closer to Colin, her mother seems to be doing everything she can to befriend the leader of the ashram, the Guru. The less Tessa sees of her mother, the more resentful she becomes of life at the ashram. This resentment leads Tessa deeper into Colin's life of sex, drugs, and music. Under the influence of drugs, Tessa, Colin, and two of his friends steal a sacred statue belonging to the ashram which ultimately leads to Colin's arrest. The arrest and the anger of the ashram members cause Tessa and her mother to look deeper at the paths their lives have taken while living at the ashram, and they make the decision to leave. Due to the inclusion of sex and drug use, this novel may disturb many teachers and parents; however, there are powerful messages in the book of belonging, forgiveness, and the importance of finding the right path for one's future. Reviewer: Jody Little
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—It's 1987 and Tessa's mother takes her out of ninth grade in Ohio to live at an ashram in the Catskills. Once there, Sarah leaves her daughter alone most of the time and begins staying overnight "in service" to the ostensibly celibate guru. The 15-year-old and 20-year-old Colin, a townie who fixes the ashram's fleet of VW buses, become friends, and then lovers. All the while what Tessa really wants is her mother to act like one. Blank's take on selfishness disguised as spiritual journey is deep and detailed. Tessa's arguments with Sarah will resonate with teens; Sarah gets calmer and more condescending as Tessa gets angrier and louder. Colin is well drawn and appropriately fallible, and his romance with Tessa is sincere and frustrating as it veers into a drug-induced haze and the authorities get involved. Blank's writing is fluid and readable, and the well-paced story is told with humor and empathy. The plot moves steadily toward a frenzied but believable climax, but Sarah's final turnaround is hard to swallow. While readers will sympathize with Tessa's situation, they, too, will long for a responsible adult to surface and put an end to all of the bad behavior.—Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
After a promising debut in 2007's Almost Home, Blank strikes out. Fourteen-year-old Tessa trails after her hippie mother, Sarah, from town to town, boyfriend to boyfriend, searching for meaning. Sarah swears the Ashram in the Catskills will be different. There, unsupervised Tessa finds comfort in the arms of 20-year-old Colin, who introduces Tessa to sex and drugs. Sarah finds herself (while ignoring Tessa), but the genuinely powerful guru uses his charisma for personal gain and Sarah reverts to form and becomes his lover. The blink-and-you'll-miss-it resolution comes after Tessa's clumsy use of her blossoming sexual power while tripping on LSD ends with a sexual assault, and Sarah's relationship with the guru simultaneously comes to light, concluding their parallel journeys through confusion and misguided relationships. Tessa tells her mother how she feels (neglected, hurt, angry) and the two ride off into the sunset. The soundtrack of classic rock and '80s New Wave is pretty awesome, but the trite messages-sex doesn't fulfill; guys are trouble-are hardly worth the journey. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Product Details

Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.70(w) x 5.76(h) x 1.13(d)
HL730L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Jessica Blank is a young writer and actress who has worked in television and film as well as in theaters throughout New York. She wrote the award-winning and hugely successful play, The Exonerated, about death row inmates who have been falsely convicted and then released after being found innocent. The film version starred Susan Sarandon, Aidan Quinn, Danny Glover and Brian Dennehy.

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Karma for Beginners 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read, had me staying up late to read but did not like the ending. Really it was more the way the author ended the story(the last few chapters) then the ending if that makes sense but it was good for the most part.
Daisy12320 More than 1 year ago
Once i started to read the first chapter i thought to myself that this would just talk about her life and back ground but once i got throught the first 2 chapters things started to get interseting:} cause at first Tessa talks about her parents and how her life got screwed up once her parents got divorced once she was 3 yrs. old. but once her and her mother arrived at there hippie shelter every thing changes. her mother finds people like her while tessa just dosen't fit in... but once she meets Colin every thing changes. She loses her virgentity, she gets into drugs and her and her mother grow apart. to know what happens at the end pick up this book and enter a new world, one sort of like ares today expect that there's a bunch of hippies. i liked how it related to teens today, many teens are losing there virginty at a young age, and many girl friends and boyfreinds get into drugs by there dates, or boy/ girl friend. You won't want to miss this book, its a book worth reading. Here's a little more info., tessa is 14 and colin is twenty, this will reflect on are world alot!
nfmgirl More than 1 year ago
I loved this book from the start. This is a book of abandonment. It's a story that so many girls can identify with: Raised by a single mother with no father in the picture, seeking a father's love, the fear that everyone will abandon you as he did, and a selfish and emotionally-distant mother to boot. Tessa's mother is totally self-absorbed. I know women like this. My best friend's mother was quite a bit like this. Her needs came first instead of that of her children. Tessa is always second-place in her mother's life (or third or fourth). After she and her mother become residents of an isolated cult, Tessa feels more abandoned than ever as her mother thrives in the new community. Tessa turns to an older man for comfort and acceptance. Her new peer group of older men causes her to deal with situations that she is not prepared to deal with. These situations were especially interesting to me, because they sort of start out thrilling and warm and cozy and enlightening, and Tessa thinks how wonderful these experiences are, but then reality sets in. She begins to lose herself and feels her life spiraling out of control. I think that most of us can identify with the feeling of hitting bottom... "Just go home, I tell myself. Just sneak into your bed and close your eyes and crawl between the sheets. Alone and quiet I can piece myself together; the world will slow to steady and I'll find solid ground again." I really liked this story. Warm and gentle, stirring memories of my childhood, with moments of heartbreak, I would recommend this "coming of age" story to anyone. Please be warned that, although this is young adult, there is quite a bit of vulgarity in it, so be wary if this offends you or if you are concerned with exposing your child to foul language and other "adult situations".
BigPoppa More than 1 year ago
I just finished "Karma for Beginners" and I thought it was amazing. The story of Tessa and her mom's voyage into the ashram culture of the Catskills is surprising subject matter for YA fiction, and Blank does a masterful job in exploring the tensions in the two characters' relationship and the parallels in their respective life journeys. I look forward to more from this writer.