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Monsoon Summer

Monsoon Summer

4.5 8
by Mitali Perkins

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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.



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.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Jasmine "Jazz" Gardner travels to her mother's native India on a philanthropic quest that is emphatically not her idea, and leaves behind her childhood friend-turned-love interest Steve. With his "Hope you guys survive the visit" ringing in her ears, the journey is not off to an auspicious start. Once in India, however, Jazz is drawn despite herself into many circles—the orphanage where her mother was cared for as an infant, the ritzy school she initially enrolls in, and the world of Danita, the girl who is assigned to be the family's domestic help. This is an unusual perspective on an Indian setting for more than one reason. First of all, Jazz is part Indian, part American, and even her Indian-born mother has few tangible memories of the country, having left it when she was four. As a result, the India we see is not familiar to these characters, as it would be to the families of returning immigrants. Instead it is quite exotic. In addition, it is colored by layers of emotion related to that long-ago adoption. The adoption theme, even one generation removed from the protagonist, might well resonate with the American families who adopt from overseas. Jazz's voice is sassy and likeable. Mature at times for her age, with business-savvy to boot, she leads the reader through cluttered city streets and the cloistered setting of the orphanage, to a final resolution afforded by her own generous gesture. The orphanage, located outside the city of Pune in the western state of Maharashtra, feels generically Indian rather than reflecting the specific geography and linguistic mix of that region. Monsoon Summer is one of a growing number of books for young readers about American familieswith links to the Indian subcontinent. With it, Perkins (The Sunita Experiment) contributes to changing the paradigm of cultural contact from collision to fusion. 2004, Delacorte, Ages 12 up.
—Uma Krishnaswami
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, July 2004: Jasmine (aka Jazz) lives in Berkeley, California, and she and her best friend Steve have a little business they run after school, weekends, and in the summer?—?a business that is highly successful. Jazz is in love with Steve, but feels awkward about letting him know how she feels, afraid it would ruin their friendship and partnership. Jazz's mother has a plan for the family to travel together to the orphanage in India where she was once abandoned as a baby; they will spend the summer helping the nuns who once had helped her so much. Most of the story takes place in India, as each member of the family discovers new interests and changes in profound ways. Jazz makes friends with an orphan named Danita who is about her own age and learns that Danita is expected to accept an arranged marriage soon and leave the orphanage. Jazz is horrified that Danita is willing to even consider this fate, and she encourages Danita to start her own business to gain some independence. Jazz's own experience is invaluable to Danita, and by the end of the summer Jazz is seeing new ways she can help Danita achieve independence. Throughout is Jazz's correspondence with Steve who is back in California, but many of the letters she writes she is unable to send, afraid of revealing her true feelings towards him. How their romance develops even over such a long distance is a major aspect of the story, and an appealing one for YA readers. But the strength of the novel is the detailed life in India in Pune during the months the family is there. The author is Bengali herself and she and her husband journeyed to Pune, "where God blessed us with the gift of ourtwin sons." KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2004, Random House, Laurel Leaf, 257p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Claire Rosser
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-Jazz, 15, and her best friend (and secret love), Steve, own a successful small business in Berkeley, taking photos of tourists in hippie costumes. When her mother wins a grant to spend the summer in India to establish a clinic at the orphanage from which she was adopted as a child, Jazz is reluctant to go but understands that the family must stick together. The girls she meets in Pune help her see herself with new eyes: more than a solidly built shot-putter, she is a beautiful young woman who might be worthy of Steve's affection. Once burned for following a do-gooder impulse, Jazz is initially afraid to befriend Danita, a talented 15-year-old orphan who dreams about starting her own business but feels compelled to accept a marriage proposal from an older man who will care for her sisters. Influenced by the magic of the monsoon season, the girls push one another to take chances rather than play it safe. Jazz reaches out to Steve and finds a way to make a difference in Danita's life. This realistic and romantic novel unobtrusively incorporates details of Indian life and culture. Jazz is a believable character, curious about her new surroundings but most engaged by her own family and friendship issues. She is appropriately upset by the poverty that surrounds her and increasingly aware of the Indians' different perceptions, including subtle indications of race and caste. Readers with an interest in faraway places will enjoy this story of friendship and first love.-Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
With an athletic build, Jasmine "Jazz" Gardner barely resembles her petite, delicate Indian mother. She can understand why her best friend and partner of the Biz, which sells photo postcards with Berkeley, California, backgrounds to nostalgic hippies, probably has no interest in her as a girlfriend. Now she's spending the summer with her family in Pune, India, while her mother sets up a women's clinic at the orphanage from which she was adopted. After being robbed by a homeless woman working for the Biz, Jazz hesitates to get involved in charitable acts like her mother. Is it Monsoon Madness-magical rains that cause people to behave in peculiar ways-that drives Jazz to help an orphan girl who dreams of starting her own business rather than accept a marriage proposal by a man more than twice her age, confess her love to Steve, and accept her body as beautiful? Although the author's altruistic messages are heavy-handed, she enlightens readers not familiar with the richness of Indian culture. In Bollywood fashion, she turns turmoil into happy endings. (Fiction. 12-15)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.75(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.80(d)
750L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt


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.

Meet the Author

Mitali Perkins previously wrote The Sunati Experiment, an ALA Recommended Book for Reluctant Readers and a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age. She lives in Newton, MA.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Monsoon Summer 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Mother-Daughter-Book-Club More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I LOVE this book I recommend this for all teenage girls it really teaches you a good lesson about charity and about your inner self. PS.... I LOVE MICHAEL JACKSON PLEASEEEEEEEEE watch the "This is it" movie!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!