Monsoon Summer (2004), by Mitali Perkins

In Monsoon Summer (2004), Mitali Perkins has created a delightful tale of a young girl’s discovery of who she is—ethnically, psychologically, and emotionally—during a summer work-holiday in India.  “Jazz” (Jasmine Carol Gardner) is a budding entrepreneur with confidence issues; a serious crush on her long-time friend and business partner, Steve Morales; an award winning shot-put throw; a reclusive, computer-geek father; and a gorgeous, petite Indian mother whom she does not physically resemble in any way.  Her visit to India, while her mother establishes a clinic for new mothers at the orphanage where she was abandoned as an infant, provides Jazz time away from the structured—albeit TV- and car-less—existence that she depends on.  Through her friendships with both the rich Indian girls at an exclusive school in Pune and the intelligent and determined orphan Danita, Jazz learns how others see her, and the relationship between inner self and outer presentation. Introspection and compassion vie with insecurity and doubt as Jazz slowly develops her own sense of self within both her family and the Asha Bari Orphanage community.
The narrative is presented through Jazz’s eyes, as is common in YA novels, yet Jazz’s awareness of her parents’ lives and emotions allows the reader to experience the angst that her mother feels, having been abandoned by a woman so very much like those she is striving to help in her clinic.  Sharing in her mother’s work for the first time, and seeing her erstwhile reclusive father do so as well, brings a new perspective to Jazz’s vision of self and family.  In the end, her business venture’s “Rule Number Eight: Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained” (243) takes on new meaning for Jazz: not only in business—which she understands intuitively—but in the confusion of life, risk-taking is sometimes essential for success.

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