The genre of young adult literature is hard to define. It is one that is identified by its liminality (to borrow a term from postcolonial theory), by its existence as an in-between segment of storytelling—neither too innocent, nor too indecent. Much like its audience, the stories that find themselves described as ‘young adult’ embody this ambiguity, this feeling of being on the edge, of mild confusion. It is also why the genre frequently finds itself using (and sometimes overusing) tropes that are quintessentially bildungsroman. And like its characters, the genre of Indian young adult literature is also one that is coming of age.
Cheryl Rao’s collection The Crest of the Snake’s Head and More consists of five unrelated adventures that all, in one way or more, make use of classic adventure tropes like Campbell’s Hero’s Journey—a trope that is also sometimes seen in the bildungsroman. The protagonists makes their way away from their familiar surroundings in a bid to find themselves or in a search for adventure; tested by the challenges of their new surroundings, they face them successfully, and return home triumphant but forever changed by the experience. Every story in this collection uses this basic trope, but Rao skilfully pads it up with entertaining detail, varying the contents of the adventures so that the reader is still able to enjoy each tale differently.