Review of Monsoon Summer by Mitali Perkins
Overview from www.bn.com: Jasmine “Jazz” Gardner heads off to India during the monsoon season. The family trip is her mother’s doing: Mrs. Gardner wants to volunteer at the orphanage that cared for her when she was young. But going to India isn’t Jazz’s idea of a great summer vacation. She wants no part of her mother’s do-gooder endeavors.
What’s more, Jazz is heartsick. She’s leaving the business she and her best friend, Steve Morales, started—as well as Steve himself. Jazz is crazy in love with the guy. If only he knew!
Only when Jazz reluctantly befriends Danita, a girl who cooks for her family, and who faces a tough dilemma, does Jazz begin to see how she can make a difference—to her own family, to Danita, to the children at the orphanage, even to Steve. As India claims Jazz, the monsoon works its madness and its magic.
I finally got a book for free that wasn’t a Barnes & Noble Free Friday book. This one came from a coworker and friend who got it for free at a library event of some kind. (Sorry, I didn’t really pay attention.)
My friend said that she saw this book on a table of free books and thought I would like it. She proved once again that she really understands my tastes because I loved it.
Monsoon Summer is the story of girl, Jazz (Jasmine) Gardner who is half Indian and half American but never feels totally at home in either culture. Though she does well at school, sports and even has her own business on the side, she doesn’t quite feel like she fits in with most of the other girls from her school.
The only person she does feel comfortable with is her best friend since grade school, Steve Morales. At least she used to. Now that she has fallen for him but is afraid to tell him, she’s not quite so comfortable with him either.
Then the bomb drops. She and her family are going to India for the summer. This is the last thing she wants since it will mean leaving Steve and the business they have set up.
But Jazz is not selfish. She knows it has always been her mother’s dream to go back to the land of her birth and Jazz would never let on that she would rather stay home in Berkeley and keep the other girls from her school from trying to take Steve away from her.
Like many others who travel to India, she discovers a whole new world of people and situations, many of them that break her heart. She wants to make a difference in the lives of those who are less fortunate and give them the same opportunities she has had but is afraid of making another big mistake. Along the way she must learn to let go and realize that she has a lot more to offer than she thought possible.
I liked this story for a lot of reasons but I am sure that one of the things that I liked about the story was that Jazz goes to the same city that I went to when I visited India. I recognized a lot of my own trip in hers. Of course I was older but I don’t see how anyone with a heart could not feel for people who welcome foreigners into their homes and their hearts with such a generous spirit as I felt when I was there. Their lives were mostly worse than mine yet rarely was I greeted by any of my hosts without a big smile.
The poverty is heart-breaking. That was the worst part. So what better place for Jazz to initiate one of her own “giving opportunities” that her mom is always encouraging her to do than in India?
I also liked how the story showed how much girls and even grown women undervalue is ourselves. Never is this more evident than in a place like India. We can learn, like Jazz does, that the most important thing we can give to another human being is to give of ourselves. We can make a difference.