Jazz in Love
260pp. Ignite Books.
It is not a secret, to longtime Rejectionist readers, that we think Neesha Meminger is a total genius, and her second YA novel does nothing but reinforce our assessment of her capabilities. Seventeen-year-old Jasbir--aka Jazz--is a Good Girl with a capital G: good grades, good friends, good future. For all her snarky attitude, she's done her best to obey her strict parents. But when Jazz is spotted hugging her longterm bestie Jeeves, A BOY THE HORROR, her mom goes ballistic. Contact with boys is forbidden--except, of course, with suitable Indian candidates heavily pre-screened by Jazz's Punjabi family. Except the perfect future husband Jazz's parents pick out for her turns out to have problems of his own; the boy who really makes Jazz weak in the knees is totally unsuitable, total player Tyler; and then there's that whole harebrained scheme to reunite Jazz's Aunt Kinder with her old flame, who just happens to now be an international celebrity. As if that isn't enough, suddenly Jeeves is developing some very firm ideas of his own about what's best for Jazz. Namely: Jeeves.
All Jazz wants is for her parents to understand she's doing her best--and her best is pretty good--and all her parents want is for her to turn out a "nice," respectable Sikh girl. Conflict is inevitable, but it never feels heavy-handed. Neesha deftly portrays the complex realities of teenagers growing up in the Indian diaspora. Tyler's heritage is Indian but, since his family's from Trinidad, he'll never be "Indian enough"; Gurmit, Jazz's parent-selected future spouse, is trying to figure out how to tell his own parents that he's gay. But, like Neesha's first YA novel Shine, Coconut Moon, Jazz in Love also tells a universal story about finding your own way in the world. Anyone who knows what it's like to have a totally different vision for your own life than your parents' idea of what's best, or who's felt way too strongly about someone way too sketchy, will see something of themselves in Jazz. Wisecracking, huge-hearted Jazz is as fabulous a protagonist as they come, and it's impossible to come away from this stellar sophomore novel without being head over heels in love with her yourself.
Neesha guest-blogged about self-publishing Jazz for the Rejectionist. She hopes to use what she's learned from self-publishing her book to help other authors get their work to their readers. We'll keep you posted as Ignite Books develops.
Check out this great interview with Neesha over at Crazy Quilts, and Official Rejectionist Favorite Teenager Ever in the History of the Universe, Ari of Reading in Color, also reviewed Jazz in Love. UPDATE: There's also a super-smart interview with Neesha over at Zetta Elliott's blog where she talks more about self-publishing. Go read it!