CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 10. . . .November 9, 2012
Neesha Meminger's young adult novel, Jazz in Love is an entertaining story of dating and romance that deals with some potentially heavy subject matter. Jazz is a 17-year-old Sikh girl living in Maple Ridge, New York. As the narrator, Jazz introduces herself as the typical good girl: she is a student in the Future Stars and Leaders gifted program at her school, she obeys her parents and tries hard to respect their wishes to pass down their Indian culture to her. However, Jazz is beginning to struggle with the growing tensions between her parents' wishes and her own desire to explore her identity and independence. Jazz finds herself feeling increasingly trapped by her parents' demands when they decide it is no longer appropriate for her to have close platonic male friends and would like to find her a suitable husband. This problem is exaggerated when a handsome bad boy, Tyler R., moves to town and starts flirting with Jazz. Jazz secretly starts dating Tyler and slowly breaks more and more of her parents' rules. She also develops a plan with a young Canadian boy with whom her parents have set her up: they will pretend to be interested in each other to get Jazz's parents to back off and to help the boy hide his homosexuality from his parents.
Jazz's story of love, family and identity will draw in young readers, especially those who find the idea of arranged marriages in North America intriguing. While arranged marriages, religion, and the difficulties faced by first-generation American children are all complex and potentially serious topics, Meminger chooses to tread lightly in these areas, and the novel feels like it's the little sister of chick lit books by authors like Emily Griffin. In many ways, Jazz in Love is fairly cliché North American YA paperback fiction, and the subject matter and cultural specifics could easily be changed without losing much of the tone or mood of the story. At its core, Jazz in Love works hard to tell a story of teen angst, crushes, (minor) heartbreak, and trying to fit in, without making the readers to feel too depressed or upset.
Readers looking for a complex, heartfelt, and thought-provoking exploration of some of the issues faced by contemporary first-generation American teens may be disappointed. However, readers looking for a nice fun read of light teen drama, with a bit of multicultural flavoring, and a small glimpse into the world of arranged marriages, will not be let down.
Beth Wilcox, a teacher in Prince George, BC, has her MA in Children's Literature from the University of British Columbia.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.