Ireland, Meredith. The Jasmine Project. Simon & Schuster, 2021. 400p. ISBN: 9781534477025 $19.99 MS, HS, OT ****
Jasmine Yap has just graduated high school and already has her future mapped out with her long-time boyfriend Paul, even if her family thinks she can do better. When Paul convinces her to “take a break” from their relationship for the summer, her family sees it as the perfect chance to show her that there are better options out there. But knowing she’ll never go for it, they concoct a plan: recruit three eligible bachelors to court Jasmine and enlist them in a secret contest to win her heart. As an unwitting Jasmine fields her unexpected suitors, she slowly begins to learn more about herself.
The Jasmine Project was a delightfully fun, laugh-out-loud YA contemporary. While having a romance at its core, it’s also very much a story of self-discovery. Jasmine has always played it safe and made herself small to fit into others’ expectations for her—being the doting girlfriend to Paul and ignoring her dreams of being a chef in favor of pursuing a stable nursing career like her mother. But as her suitors—a jock, the boy next door, and a budding young chef—push her outside of her comfort zone, she discovers new sides of herself and learns to go after what she wants. Teen readers will relate to her fears of not being enough, and her journey to find herself.
This novel is also wonderfully diverse. Jasmine is a Korean-American adoptee with parents who are Filipino and Italian, respectively. Her sister is Filipino and Italian, and her brother is Laotian and Dominican (also adopted). There is a robust supporting cast that includes characters who are Black, Asian, Latinx, biracial, and queer. Jasmine’s large family provides a lot of humor to the story, and the novel includes excerpts of their text messages as they plan the secret dating contest.
Although the story lags a bit in the middle and could have been shorter, it was overall such a fun, sweet coming of age story that blends romance, self discovery, and complex family dynamics. The romance is fairly chaste, making this book great for teens of all ages. The Jasmine Project is perfect for fans of Jenny Han, Maurene Goo, or Gloria Chao.
–Ari Nussbaum, Hayward Public Library
Tags: coming of age, humor, people of color, romance