Book review: Ponti — by Sharlene Teo

(Simon & Schuster)
“Ponti” is told from the perspectives of three women, Szu, Circe and Amisa. Szu is an awkward, shame-filled, possibly friendless 16-year-old, living a dingy existence in the shadow of her mother, the outlandishly beautiful but terminably dissatisfied Amisa, faded star of a 1970s cult horror film series, Ponti. Amisa stars as the pontianak, or ponti for short, a man-hunting female vampiric ghost from Malaysian mythology. Szu loathes and worships her mother in the same breath. When Szu meets Circe at school, an unlikely friendship blooms quickly and fiercely, perhaps not able to stand the test of time. The girls’ impetuous, capricious and highly suggestible minds are so well cataloged and perfectly portrayed, it’s almost uncomfortable to read, yet it’s a highly recognizable and relatable angst. Years later, when both girls are women with lives of their own, Circe is coincidentally tasked with marketing the reboot of the infamous Ponti films, and she is reminded of their past. Detailed, often gritty depictions of Singapore, in 2003 and 2020, as well as in the 1968 flashback scenes with Amisa, are vivid and current and true to the spirit of Singapore. This novel is the first by author Sharlene Teo, a Singaporean writer based in the U.K. and winner of the inaugural Deborah Rogers Writers’ Award for “Ponti.”
Top 10 most challenged books of 2017
Banned Books Week is Sept. 23-29
Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Drama, by Raina Telgemeier
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
George, by Alex Gino
Sex is a Funny Word, by Cory Silverberg
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings

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