The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

This week I’m excited to feature the work of my friend Rajni Gupta, whose YA novel, Girl in God’s City, has advanced to the quarter finals in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award contest.

This massive contest starts out with up to 10,000 entries across 5 genre categories. Rajni’s is one of only 100 stories remaining in her category, a well-deserved honor.

A free excerpt is available for download on Amazon (click here), which readers can rate and review. You’ll see my five-star review (G.Stephens) posted among the others. The judges will take these into account for the semifinal round.

Below is a summary of Girl in God’s City. If you’re intrigued, please click over to Amazon to read more and leave a quick review. A few sentences can go a long way to support an emerging author!


Click here to download!

Girl in God’s City, by Rajni Gupta

Rebellious 16-year-old Nisha Talwar is angry and distraught when her pregnant mother kills herself. Nisha wonders if, because of the pain she caused Ma in the last eight years, she is somehow responsible for the suicide. The note Ma left for her offers no explanation, only pleas to—among other things—fall in love, take care of Father, forgive her, and, ironically, be brave.

Upon investigation, Nisha discovers that Ma had lost the baby she was carrying. Knowing how desperately Ma wanted the baby, Nisha concludes that the grief must be what pushed Ma to the extreme. The assumption doesn’t quell Nisha’s guilt. If anything, it reinforces it.

To unburden her conscience, Nisha sets out to fulfill Ma’s last wishes. But the constant clashes with her insensitive and authoritarian father make her want to get away from him instead of take care of him. She falls in love with the neighborhood boy, Sameer, but, afraid as she is of losing everyone she loves, she has a hard time staying in love. The heartache she experiences after a falling-out with Sameer makes her want to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Getting a sense of Ma’s desperation, Nisha thinks she is ready to forgive her mother, but realizes later that she is not.

To resolve her hurt, insecurity, and anger, Nisha must be brave enough to confront a painful incident from eight years ago that’s at the heart of her guilt—her infant sister, Kairi’s death.

Set in the holy city of Varanasi, India, the story is about a troubled teen’s extraordinary journey through grief. This quietly poignant, literary novel with its universal theme — love and forgiveness heal — has appeal for teens as well as adults, especially those interested in multicultural/Indian literature.


img_0023Rajni Gupta lives with her husband and daughter in Charlotte, North Carolina. She was a finalist for the Elizabeth Simpson Smith award. Her stories have appeared in Muse India, Shotgun Honey, Pif Magazine and Every Day Fiction. Her Young Adult novel, Girl in God’s City, is currently a quarter-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest.

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , , | 29 Comments

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29 thoughts on “The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

  1. Thanks for this review Gwen – it really does sound an interesting read, especially as years ago we visited that holiest of cities, Varanasi. What an amazing place.

  2. Congratulations to Ms. Gupta! I wish her well in the rest of the contest. (I wonder if she’s as anxious waiting for her Publishers Weekly review as I am… :/ )

    Thanks again for your review of my excerpt!

    • I’m sure she’s anxiously awaiting that review, Carrie. Can’t imagine the pins and needles feeling. I told Rajni about your excerpt, and she enjoyed it very much. She left a comment on Amazon under her husband’s name. Be sure to let your blog readers know when you get your feedback from PW!

      • Ah, so that’s who that review was from. So nice of her! I’ll have to check out her excerpt when I get a chance. :)

    • Rajni

      Congratulations to you too, Carrie. I loved your excerpt. It left me hungry for more. Good luck with the rest of the contest.
      I too am anxiously awaiting the PW review.

      • Thank you! I just downloaded your excerpt and will read it tonight or tomorrow. I look forward to it. I always enjoy reading books set in India. In fact, my all-time favorite novel is “A Fine Balance” by Rohinton Mistry. I’ve never read anything that touched me like that book did. Beautiful and heart-breaking.

    • Rajni

      Thanks for the review, Carrie. I’m grateful!
      I checked out “A Fine Balance” from the library once. But by the time I got to it (meaning after reading the four other books I brought home, that were less intimidating in terms of size) the book was due back. Reading your praise for the book makes me want to give it another shot. This time I’ll be sure to check it out solo :)
      I am also downloading The Seneca Scourge. Did I tell you I’m a sucker for medical thrillers.

  3. I’m thrilled for Rajni. I downloaded the excerpt last week and I look forward to reading it this week, even though it will be a tease. I know I’ll want to read more. I tend to be greedy when it comes to reading. :) Good luck, Rajni!

  4. Congrats to Rajni. Sounds like a very cool realistic ya read.

    • Thanks, Kourtney. You’re one who can directly relate to where she is right now. Keeping my fingers crossed she’ll be one of the lucky few who move on.

      • LOL. Goodness, I can’t believe that was 2 years ago. It started so much happening in my career. Hope it does the same for Rajni! :)

    • Rajni

      Thank you, Kourtney. I’m currently reading The Six Train to Wisconsin, and have become a fan of your writing.

    • Rajni

      Thank you for the review, Kourtney. I’m so glad you enjoyed the excerpt.

  5. Rajni

    Dear Gwen, thank you for featuring my ABNA entry here. It’s an honor. I’m indebted to you for being my writing partner, for not only reading the manuscript more than once, but reading it carefully each time, and giving valuable input. I appreciate all that you do for me. XO

    • It was my pleasure to try and generate a few readers here, and of course to have read your manuscript more than once. You’ve done the same for me with all your critiques. We make a pretty good partnership, don’t you think?

  6. Coo – good beginning! I have just gone to do a review, which goes like this: “Starts off quite low key but quickly ramps up to become heart rending – but not in an overdone way. Quite subtle, catching you out. Good sense of place as well, and a real understanding of the complexities of the family situation and its cultural context.” Well worth a read.

  7. Wow what an incredible achievement. Rajni’s book sounds like a sensitive, heartbreaking read. Thanks for sharing this with us, Gwen x

  8. Thanks for sharing this with us, Gwen! And best wishes to Rajni as the contest continues!

  9. Aya

    Keeping my fingers cross for Rajni. I think she a talented writer. I really enjoyed her work and I think she deserve to go the next phase. I downloaded the excerpt and plan to write a review this weekend.

    • Rajni

      Thanks, Aya. It was a pleasure reading your work too. I miss our WD class.

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