Reviewed by: Shivani Singh
Third Best is an entertaining story accurately throwing light on the life of students in Indian boarding schools. Set in the early 90’s, it spins around Mount Shore, a prestigious school where seniors command their juniors to do their homework and chores, girls sneak into the boys’ dormitories and infatuations are unrequited.
The protagonist of the story, Nirvan Shrivastava is enrolled in Mount Shore to continue the glowing legacy of his family. Each and every member of his family – be it his great-great grandparents or his aunts and uncles have attended the school and left with their names heroically embedded in its history. And the same success and excellence in academics and sports is expected of Nirvan, not to forget the coveted title of Head of the Mount which all of his predecessors with the exception of his elder brother Moksh had earned. But from the first day itself, he realizes that things aren’t easy as he’s been made to believe, because getting good grades to please his teachers and shouldering the pressure of his House to win an inter-house school football tournament weren’t the only problems he faced. No one had ever taught him how to talk to someone he had a crush on, how to stand up for the right and how to regain his lost respect.
Accompanied by Nirvan are his best friends at Mount Shore, consisting of Faraz, Gautam and Ruma. Faraz is a tall and incredibly good-looking young man who is desired by every girl he comes across – oblivious to his nonchalance to their advances and his desire lying in someone unattainable. That one friend everyone has who is a complete music freak is portrayed by Gautam, who in spite of his uncanny knack to get into trouble, low grades and obsession with hot girls has hidden qualities and talents, which he learns to discover and nurture along with the help of his caring friends. Meanwhile, Rumi is a girl who has lived abroad all her life and is a die-hard fan of Nirvana and Guns ‘n Roses, who falls for one of her unsuspecting friends.
Amidst the horrifying nervousness of dallying between studying for the upcoming board exams and playing football matches to bring glory to their House, they learn valuable lessons about sacrifices, hard work and making the right decisions. They learn to deal with heartaches and losing loved ones, and forgiveness too. The crime of bullying by seniors has a major role in this story, and the painful truth about violent bullying is openly displayed. But the most important lesson that the students learn is to always stand up for what is right, whomsoever the perpetrator might be.
Third Best is a light-hearted read for teens that enjoy the multiple interesting flavors of boarding school life. It successfully displays the concept of boarding school life which was popularized by Enid Blyton, the only differences being that in this book you find the abundant swearing, raging hormones and other aspects that come with the onset of adolescence and plots that are more appealing to young adults. Hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time, Third Best makes a fun read.
(Shivani Singh, who has just appeared for her 10th grade exams, is an avid reader and a writer in the making.)