April 22, 2019

Mya's Strategy to Save the World

Written by Tanya Lloyd Kyi
Puffin Canada
200 pp.
Ages 9-12
April 2019
Reviewed from Advance Reader's Copy

She may be dealing with her mother's prolonged absence tending to her ill grandmother, a comic but persistent misunderstanding about her sister's shin pads, a communication project with an annoying boy, and a mission to convince her parents to get her a cell phone, but Mya is still out to save the world because it seems to need it.

Twelve-year-old Mya, eight-year-old sister Nanda and their father seem to be a little lost when Mom heads to Myanmar to tend to her ailing mother. Mya, who aspires to work for the United Nations, uses all her skills in conflict resolution, patience, forgiveness and more to handle the ever-imploding household that can't balance meal preparation, laundry, cleaning and child care. But Mya is also a globally conscious and compassionate girl who, having organized their Kids for Social Justice group with best friend Cleo, worries about many issues, including the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar. However, while she would love to have the support of Cleo, her friend has just been gifted her first cell phone and is way too involved with texting and her crush Drew.

Meanwhile, Mya has been partnered with Ian to work on a communications project for English. As they pursue their project, sometimes in sync and sometimes not, Mya begins to learn a little bit more about effectively interacting with others to get her points across although not without a few misunderstandings and occasional strife. Oh, and did I mention the issues surrounding the mining of cobalt–war, child labour, safety, etc.–which is a key component in electronics like cell phones? Can Mya use all her diplomacy to find a friendly resolution to all the issues–environmental, social justice, family and relationship–with which she is concerned?

Wow, this girl has a lot on her plate: family, friends, school, boys, the world. (Did I mention she gets her period while her mother is away?) Yet, she never curls up and hides her head under the blankets. She's other there doing her bit and trying her best. Even when it seems like no one appreciates her efforts or takes them seriously, she manages. Taking advice from her father,
...if people take small steps in the right direction, the world will slowly shift. (pg. 158)
Mya continues to crusade for herself, others and our world. But Tanya Lloyd Kyi never makes Mya a saint or a tedious rah-rah cheerleader.  Rather, Mya is a stalwart advocate for doing one's best. Moreover, there is a freshness to Mya's social activism and her coming of age story. Tanya Lloyd Kyi could have weighed down the story with social issues that are heart-breaking and alarming or she could have steeped Mya's navigation into puberty with angst and confusion. Instead, she chose to offer hope that those small steps would lead somewhere positive, making those baby steps the first steps to social change and, on  a personal basis, to being a teenager.

Tanya Lloyd Kyi launches Mya's Strategy to Save the World this week in Vancouver. See details here.

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