The Jasmine Project by Meredith Ireland. Simon & Schuster, 2021. 9781534477025
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
Genre: Realistic fiction, romance
What did you like about the book? Recent high school grad Jasmine’s the middle child in her Floridian family, between beautiful, fabulous biological daughter Cari and the other adopted kid, 14-year-old Davey (he’s originally from the Dominican Republic while Jasmine was born in Korea). All three kids are meshed deeply into a huge, loving, extended Filipino/Italian family and everyone’s always in everyone else’s business. After 4 years of dating Paul, Jasmine learns he’s been seen cozying up with another girl. Thank goodness, as her huge nosy family thinks he’s bad for Jazzy. Cue the crazy rom/com plot. Cari has a successful Bachelorette podcast and everyone gets into secretly setting up Jasmine with three hot new guys and even (uh hum, Davey) making book on who she’ll pick: the Boy Next Door, the Pro, or the Cook. Jasmine has always played it safe: choosing a local community college, not driving too fast, not swimming in the ocean, and definitely not telling her parents that she’d rather move to Paris and pursue cooking than attend nursing school. Although she starts out slightly flat, as we get to know her Jasmine definitely becomes more colorful and daring, which everyone around her notices and appreciates, even the scumbag Paul, who eventually wants her back. The scenes with the 3 suitors are cute and romantic and involve no sex whatsoever; it’s clear from the start she’ll pick Eugene, the chef, but it’s a fun ride. Interspersed between the chapters advancing the plot are long, breezy group texts with the entire extended family. Most characters in the book are racially mixed; I gave up trying to keep track of the massive casts’ skin colors and origin stories by the 3rd chapter.
Anything you didn’t like about it? I definitely could have done with fewer characters and less plot. The two BFFs are basically interchangeable, the bewildering number of relatives were reduced to being faceless aunties and uncles, and a side plot about Jasmine’s relationship with her beloved but estranged Aunt Jay (her chef mentor) felt shoehorned in. Many rom/coms require total suspension of disbelief and this one is no exception. Jasmine’s forgiveness, which follows Paul’s very public dénouement of the matchmaking scheme, felt unbelievably magnanimous.
To whom would you recommend this book? Teens looking for a cute and squeaky clean romance. The diverse characters, exotic locale, cooking/food scenes, and goofy but loving family will appeal to many readers. Recommended for fans of Jenny Han and Sandhya Menon.
Who should buy this book? High schools and public libraries
Where would you shelve it? YA fiction
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA
Date of review: September 21, 2021