A first person voice carries a lot of authority. It says, "I am telling you this story as it really happened." There's no room for distance.
First person needs to be completely authentic, otherwise it pulls you out of the story. Which happened with this book. The narrator is supposedly an 8-year-old boy. Since the book shortly after 9/11, I guess he could be a 13-year-old boy looking back, but the book is written in present tense. So that says, "This story is happening now."
But the book doesn't jibe with those two things.
Take this paragraph:
"Dad sighs through his nose and takes a gulp of his tea. His eyes are red-rimmed, and he seems smaller, wrinkled, like a dried-up grade turning into a raisin. Our whole house feels parched without Bapu."
Further down the page, it says,
"We need to pick up his clothes from the hospital," Ma says. She's always practical, a word I learned in school, which means "no-nonsense" and "matter-of-fact."
This yanked me out of the story. The narrator drops the word parched into the story, but only recently learned the word practial?
I'm not buying it.