cover image MONSOON SUMMER


Mitali Perkins, . . Delacorte, $15.95 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-385-73123-2

Fifteen-year-old Jasmine (aka "Jazz") Gardner, resident of Berkeley, Calif., is less thrilled than the other members of her family to be spending the summer in India, where her mother was born. While her mother, father and younger brother happily do charity work at a local orphanage (where Jazz's mother spent her first four years), Jazz broods about what she's left behind: summer practices with her track team, her lucrative business selling postcards on Telegraph Avenue, and her track teammate/business partner Steve, her childhood friend—with whom Jazz has recently fallen in love. Throughout this heartfelt story, India's rainy season and myths of "monsoon madness" ("Some people go crazy with joy when the rains come. Others go mad because they can't handle the constant downpour," explains the director of the orphanage) become metaphors for Jazz's internal changes as she gradually and somewhat reluctantly assimilates to Indian culture. Danita, a 15-year-old orphan hired as the Gardners' cook, teaches Jazz to look at herself from a new perspective, convincing the tall, self-conscious teen that she is beautiful and worthy of seemingly out-of-reach Steve. In return, Jazz assists Danita in evading an undesirable arranged marriage, helping her start her own business. Besides having educational merit in conveying India's culture and its problems, Perkins's (The Sunita Experiment ) novel sensitively traces an American girl's emotional growth. Readers will not be surprised when, in the end, Jazz wins greater self-respect along with Steve's heart. Ages 12-up. (Aug.)