Title: Monsoon Summer
Author: Mitali Perkins
Publisher: Delacorte Press/Random House, 2004
Where I got it: The Barnes & Noble where I work.
Why I read it: I've met Mitali Perkins and thought I should probably read one of her books, especially right before going to one of her signings. Plus I wanted to read it.
15-year-old Jazz has just found out some big news. After receiving a grant, Jazz's mother will finally have the chance to pay back the orphanage in India where she spent her first years by building a clinic. The problem? Jazz, and the rest of her family, will have to join her, spending the entire summer in India and away from her best friend/secret crush Steve, not to mention the booming business they've created. She'll be halfway around the world from everything she knows in Berkeley, California—she knows it's going to be a rough summer, especially with the constant rains of the monsoon season.
But the more time she spends in the country, the more she learns about the culture and half of her own background. She has taken after her large, white father more than her petite Indian mother, and she begins to notice the attention she receives in India as a result. She also forges friendships with girls from different social classes, giving her a larger (and harsher) perspective on the situations that some girls must deal with.
Perkins managed to make this a book about poverty, class, Indian culture, body issues and love, seamlessly weaving all these themes together into one lovely coming-of-age story in which many young adults will see themselves. Jazz deals with all the issues you might expect a teen to encounter: being uncomfortable in her larger body, having a multiracial background, trying to live up to the legacy her mother has created, falling in love with her best friend, and fitting in to a new and foreign environment. Jazz's voice is also just spunky enough while staying realistic.
I love the lush descriptions of India and its people. As someone who has never been to Asia, I appreciated all of the details and explanations Perkins included. She doesn't shy away from describing the poverty in the country, mentioning children suffering from malnutrition and including a scene of a teen mother mourning the choice she must make to give her newborn child to the orphanage.
Yet this is certainly a hopeful story, one that encourages generosity and giving of yourself to make the world a better place. I know Mitali wants to make a difference with her literature, and this will certainly inspire at least some readers to think about what they can do for those less fortunate than they are. At the very least, it will provide a great story with real, likable characters.
If you have been looking at my number of followers, you'll notice that, oh my goodness! I finally have 50!
This calls for a celebration. I will be giving away a SIGNED copy of Monsoon Summer, which I got at the book launch party for Mitali Perkins' newest book, Bamboo People (look out for a review on this one too). Not only did she sign a ton of books, she was kind enough to give everyone a lovely bamboo bookmark from Thailand as well. (It has an elephant plated at the top—it is quite nice!) I will be giving away this copy, along with the bookmark, to thank you all for following. This giveaway will end at 11:59 p.m. ET on September 1, 2010.
To enter, just fill out the form below.