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Secretly in love with her best friend and business partner Steve, fifteen-year-old Jazz must spend the summer away from him when her family goes to India during that country's rainy season to help set up a clinic.
Berkeley students basked in the spring sunshine. They were watching a group of Hawaiians hula to the beat of traditional drums. I pushed my way through the crowd, bumping into a display of tie-dyed T-shirts.
The vendor caught it before it fell. "Take it easy, kid!"
"What's the rush, Jazz?" the drummer asked.
I mumbled an excuse and kept going. The hat must be empty, I thought. I usually jump-started the giving for the hula dancers by dropping a dollar in the drummer's battered straw hat, but I couldn't stop now. I had big news to tell Steve. Bad news, I thought, almost crashing into the barefoot actor reciting Shakespeare.
Finally. There it was. The Berkeley Memories booth, or the Biz, as we called it. Steve was selling tickets to a bunch of tourists, and my stomach started dancing to the drumbeat at the sight of him.
"Hey," he said, handing me a roll of bills. "Busy day today. Count that, will you?"
I took the money but didn't say anything. Steve looked up and saw my face. "Jazz! What's wrong?" he asked.
"The orphanage won the grant," I said. "I'm spending the summer in India."
I heard a cough and turned to see an elderly lady tapping her watch. "Biz Rule Number Three: Customer Is King," I muttered to Steve. "Meet you at the coffeehouse. Gotta get a latte."
Not too many fifteen-year-olds are addicted to lattes, but Steve and I got hooked on them while we were planning the Biz last summer. Berkeley Memories belonged completely to the two of us--Steven Anthony Morales and Jasmine Carol Gardner.
But Steve was far more than just my business partner. We'd been best friends since kindergarten--the kind of friends who never have a fight, the kind who know exactly what the other person's thinking. Or at least we used to.
Until last summer, that is, when something terrible happened.
I fell in love.
Our friendship might have survived if I'd fallen in love with someone else. But no. I had to fall in love with him. Steve Morales himself--who'd once been the kid I wrestled every day of second grade.
It was almost impossible to keep a secret from Steve, and lately I could tell he was wondering why I was acting so weird. I'd dissolve into tears while we watched some silly movie, blubbering into the popcorn while Steve stared at me like I was some kind of lunatic. And I'd developed a new habit--one that made him furious. I'd started to put myself down. A lot.
"Are you nuts?" he'd ask, trying not to shout. "Do you know what you just said?"
I couldn't help it. All my unspoken passion made me feel like a volcano, and insults about the way I looked or acted came gushing out of my mouth. Part of me wanted him to leap to my defense, but my plan always backfired. He just got mad at me instead.
Now I watched him glumly through the window of the coffeehouse. Why did he have to grow up to be so gorgeous? So out of my reach? Big brown eyes, long lashes, a great jawline, and a cleft in his chin that I always wanted to touch. Not to mention those long legs and great shoulders, which gave him the perfect build for high jump and hurdles. He'd broken several school records already and was about as obsessed with track as he was with the business.
He'd even talked me into joining the team. We were the only two sophomores on varsity who won consistently. My records weren't for running or leaping, though. I made the school paper for throwing a shot put farther than most girls in our district--and most guys. The school paper printed a photo of Steve and me that someone had snapped from behind us, of all places. track-team twins, read the caption. I was wearing two sweatshirts and we looked exactly the same size on top. Farther on down, though, his shape got slimmer. Mine just stayed wide.
But there was more to Steve than met the eye. He was an honor student, just like I was. He was kind; I'd actually seen him leave the booth to help old ladies cross Telegraph Avenue. And he was humble, too. I don't think he had a clue that he was one of the top ten feature attractions at school.
Even as I watched, a group of East Bay High girls joined the line at the booth. One was a small-boned, tiny-waisted girl who reminded me of a Barbie doll. Julia something or other. She was the batting-eyelash type who made guys feel like hulking superheroes. I'd actually seen a few of them flexing their biceps when she passed by. A group of second-rate imitators accompanied her everywhere.
She was twisting a strand of her long hair, gazing up at Steve. I figured she was about to make a move. Sure enough, she fumbled in her bag and "accidentally" dropped a handful of coins. Steve, of course, bent down to pick them up. I winced as he handed her a tie-dyed T-shirt, placed a headband around her forehead, and draped a peace medallion around her neck. This was our usual Biz routine, but she smiled at him the whole time as if they were getting married. Then she followed him into the booth, winking at her giggling friends.
Mentally, I walked with them through the Biz routine, counting the seconds. First, she'd pick one of four picket signs--u.s. out of vietnam, no more nukes, peace now, or end apartheid. Holding it, she'd pose in front of a huge picture of Sather Gate and the Campanile clock tower, two Berkeley landmarks. Steve would snap some photos. In about three minutes, they'd both come out. When she left the booth, she'd be ten dollars poorer, but she'd have a set of a dozen postcards with her picture on the front and a caption that read, the dream never dies. berkeley memories, berkeley, california.
From the Hardcover edition.
Posted August 24, 2010
When fifteen-year-old Jazz Gardner discovers she's going to spend the summer in India with her family she is not happy about it at all. She has a thriving business in San Francisco with her best friend Steve, and she can't imagine leaving either one for three months. She's certain one of the other girls from school will make a move while she's gone and claim Steve's heart before she even tells him how much he means to her.
When she arrives in the town where her mother was born and adopted from the orphanage, she's determined not to get involved in helping out in any way. All she wants to do is pass the time while she counts the days until she goes home. But her encounters with the people, and a little bit of monsoon madness, just may convince her she's got something to contribute after all.
Monsoon Summer by Mitali Perkins is a great book for mother-daughter book clubs. Jazz is an independent girl whose parents are very much involved in her life. She constantly compares herself to her mother, and often feels she's lacking. This book can generate great discussions on finding and believing in your own strengths, working to help others, trusting people and having the courage to say what you're feeling. Perkins has an excellent mother-daughter book club discussion guide at her website, http://www.mitaliperkins.com/mother_daughter_book_club.html. Here's just one of the questions that may provoke great discussion:
"What's the most risky thing you've tried when it comes to helping someone else? Did it work?" I highly recommend Monsoon Summer for book clubs with girls aged 10 and up.
Posted October 14, 2008
Posted August 6, 2008
Although this book started out a bit young for my taste as a 30 something I quickly started reading if from a teenage girls point of view. What great lessons this book teaches and messages it conveys to girls. Be proud of your heritage, you don't have to look like a barbie doll to be considered acceptable and above all, human compassion and charity. I encourage all teens and their moms to read this great story!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 24, 2004
Jazz resisted going to India for the summer with her family. Her mother, who was adopted by American parents had been born in India and had lived the first four years of her life in an orphanage. Now the mother was excited about returning to help the orphanage and the community around it with a medical clinic. However, Jazz had discovered her first love, her long time friend, Steve, and she yearned to stay at home and take care of the business that she and Steve had established. The family packed up and moved to India during the Monsoon season. At first Jazz felt bitter and awkward, but she gradually started to feel comfortable. As the Monsoon brought new life to the land, Jazz discovered inner resources and contentment. It was a pleasure to read a book with a family who cared about each other and who placed importance on family loyalty. The characters are well-written and appealing. Jazz may feel anxiety about the summer in India, she may consider herself a big unlovable girl, she may want to hide from the crowds who seem to have their eyes on her all the time, but she always comes across as someone who in the end will shine, and so she does. She scoffs at her mother¿s desire to give and help, but Jazz discovers that helping is part of her own personality, also. Along with Jazz¿s adventures there is information about the people of India, how they dress, eat, live, and think. Danita, an orphaned girl that Jazz befriends, is determined to keep her two sisters with her, even if it means marrying a much older and physically repellant man. Danita and Jazz share their talents and make a difference in their lives. Monsoon summer is touching and engrossing. I highly recommend it for those who want an easy to read and uplifting story about adjusting to another culture and discovering one¿s own self. The book is rated age 12 and up.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 13, 2004
Monsoon summer in an excellent book. It was so exciting for Jazz (Jasmine) to go through such a hard time in India, and finally realizes that she loved to spend time at the orphanage. I'm indian myself, and knows what she goes through in this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 30, 2004
I picked up a signed copy of Monsoon Summer at my favorite bookstore in NYC and just couldn't put it down! This book is so much fun! Jasmine (Jazz) is a endearing and believable character whose insecurities and mistakes made me think of a younger me. Mitali Perkins captures those awkward teenage years and that first crush so clearly; you will feel like you are reliving it! Perkins brings out the most beautiful details of India, and Pune (a city a few hours outside of Bombay) in particular. Her observations of caste and poverty are poignant. Most interesting are her views and charity and altruism. What a delightful and satisfying read!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 16, 2009
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