Radha & Jais Romance Recipe by Nisha Sharma Crown Books for Young Readers hide caption
Crown books for young readers
Crown books for young readers
As a Greek American, I appreciate the value of filling yourself with foods your yiayia used to prepare and dancing to the point of exhaustion … and then getting up and dancing again. So, right away, Nisha Sharma’s Radha and Jai’s recipe for romance looked like an absolute treat, and I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed.
The story begins with Radha staging (and presumably winning) the biggest Kathak dance competition of her life. But after hearing some gossip behind the scenes about her arrogant mother Sujata compromising one of the judges, Radha has a panic attack and runs away. Then we jump forward seven months to find that Radha and Sujata have left both Chicago – and Radha’s head chef – so Radha can attend her senior year at Princeton Academy of the Arts and leave the past behind.
Jai is the incredibly handsome captain of the Bollywood Beats dance team, but he has his own problems. After his shopkeeper father suffered a traumatic brain injury, his older brothers took over the business. Jai believes that after graduation it will be his turn to bear the burden, but his family would rather see him pursue his dream of becoming a medical student at the very expensive Columbia University.
Although Radha and Jai are a privileged girl and the son of a shopkeeper, it doesn’t take long for them to fall in love. Jai understands Radha’s panic attacks and her aversion to public appearances. He recommends that she choreograph the dance team’s winter showcase, which Radha accepts as a loophole in her promise to Sujata to take part in the senior performance. But the school’s principal knows that the seniors won’t win the Winter Showcase if Radha doesn’t dance in the lead, and surprisingly there’s a massive cash prize at stake that could make a big difference, especially for Jai’s future.
I laughed, googled words, and cried as I finished the book in the early hours of the morning.
I enjoyed the dance of the Radha and Jai relationship, a push that meant more respect and encouragement than dislike. I sympathized with Radha’s turbulent relationship with the stage as well as the new hobby “stressful cooking according to old family recipes”, which brings her back into contact with her estranged father. I confess that I am not that familiar with certain Indian dance terms or South Asian dress styles, so I kept looking for words as I read it. Maybe I could have read it out of context, but having my internet search results on hand as a colorful visual aid was a pleasant addition to this Bollywood-level act of dance breaks that almost jumped off the page.
As light-hearted as the book is, the story still delves into the subject of panic attacks, living with family members who have suffered a stroke and / or traumatic brain injury, and the question of loving something without putting it in a competition to transform. I laughed, googled words, and cried as I finished the book in the early hours of the morning. It was nice to see both Jai and Radha find their joy.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll see what Bollywood films are currently being streamed. Plus, there are a couple of new dishes I want to try on my Instapot!
Alethea Kontis is a voice actress and award-winning author of over 20 books for children and young people.