In Charmed Particles, first-time novelist Chrissy Kolaya incorporates physics, cultural assimilation and family friendships into a story of small-town political conflict.
When the U.S. Department of Energy announces that it is considering building a Superconducting Super Collider that would replace the National Research Accelerator Lab in Nicolet, Ill., theoretical physicist Abhijat Mital is excited by what it could mean for his career, but many of Nicolet's citizens don't share his enthusiasm.
Mayoral candidate Rose Winchester opposes the SSC, and popular opinion, fueled by fear of the project's environmental impact and resentment over the potential loss of homes to its construction, seems to be on her side. However, Rose's scientifically inclined teen daughter, Lily, aligns herself with Abhijat, the father of her best friend, Meena, in support of the project. Meanwhile, Meena and her mother, Sarala, more attuned to their community than Abhijat is, both have reservations. Sarala has spent more than a decade since moving from India trying to assimilate into the Midwestern suburbs, and is torn by understanding both her neighbors' concerns and her husband's hopes for the project; Meena just wants to fit in with her high-school class.
The early chapters of Charmed Particles are largely episodic and focused on developing the characters; by the time the SSC proposal is introduced, the reader has become invested in these people's lives and how they will be changed by it, no matter what the outcome. Kolaya's emphasis on personal relationships helps her portray the public controversy over the SSC with sympathy to all sides, and the result is a story that engages both heart and mind. --Florinda Pendley Vasquez, blogger at The 3 R's Blog: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness