Radha & Jai's recipe for romance

Nisha Sharma, 1985-

Book - 2021

Radha is on the verge of becoming one of the greatest Kathak dancers in the world until a family betrayal costs her the biggest competition of her life. She leaves her Chicago home behind to follow her stage mom to New Jersey. At the Princeton Academy of the Arts, Radha is determined to reinvent herself from scratch. Jai is captain of the Bollywood Beats dance team, ranked first in his class. He's an overachiever, but tight family funds means medical school is a pipe dream. When Radha enters his life, he realizes she's the exact ingredient he needs for a show-stopping senior year. -- adapted from jacket

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Young adult fiction
School fiction
New York : Crown Books for Young Readers 2021
Main Author
Nisha Sharma, 1985- (author)
First edition
Physical Description
325 pages ; 23 cm
Ages 14+.
Grades 10-12.
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

Radha, an outstanding kathak dancer, stops performing during an international competition, after learning that her mother has slept with one of the judges. Moving to New Jersey for her senior year of high school, she meets Jai, who seems determined to sacrifice his dreams of attending Columbia and becoming a doctor, in order continue working in his family's store. Jai convinces Radha, who misses the "dance joy" she felt while performing, to choreograph an important piece for the school's Bollywood-style dance team. Senior year brings increasing stress, as the two Indian Americans struggle with their families' expectations, the pressures they're putting on themselves, and the romance that draws them together. The author of My So-called Bollywood Life (2018), Sharma creates two intelligent main characters who teeter on the edge of questionable, idealistic decisions before listening to those who offer more realistic perspectives. Readers will enjoy Radha's lifelong love of dance, her newfound pleasure in Indian cooking, and Jai's enthusiasm for Bollywood as much as their strong, mutual attraction in this upbeat romance.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Sharma (My So-Called Bollywood Life) deftly crafts a sweet romance steeped in food, dance, and desi culture. When 17-year-old Radha Chopra arrives in London for the International Kathak Classics semifinals, she has no idea her life is about to be upended. Having spent years training in the North Indian classical dance form, Radha is blindsided when she learns that her previous success may have had something to do with her mother's affair with a judge. After Radha and her mother move from Chicago to New Jersey, the talented teen enrolls at the Princeton Academy of the Arts and Sciences, striking a deal with her mom: if Radha devotes herself to dancing for one year, her mother will pay her university tuition. At the Academy, Bollywood Beats dance team captain Jai dreams of attending medical school, a financial impossibility unless he wins scholarship money at a regional dance competition. When his attractive new friend Radha agrees to help choreograph his team's competition routine, the teens will have to overcome their personal demons--including performance anxiety and difficult family relationships--to win. Financial and medical issues intersect with familial pressures in ways that relatably shape the well-wrought characters' lives, while humor and romance leaven the quickly paced book's exploration of serious topics. Ages 14--up. Agent: Antonella Iannarino, David Black Agency. (July)

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Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up--Radha is a gifted dancer of kathak, a North Indian classical dance form. Devoting her life to global kathak dance competitions, she is highly successful until the day she overhears other dancers claiming that her mother has had an affair with a judge and that Radha's past wins were unfairly awarded. Radha immediately leaves the competition, destroying her reputation and relationship with her dance school. Upon moving to New Jersey with her newly divorced mother, Radha meets Jai, who is captain of the school's Bollywood dance team and fiercely loyal to his family and willing to give up his dreams of med school for them. The two relatable high school seniors kindle a romance amid family drama, and along the way Radha finds herself and forges a relationship with her chef father through cooking. Mayuri Bhandari's narration is lively and expressive, although at times some of her character's voices seemed interchangeable. Bhandari skillfully conveys Radha's struggles with anxiety. Neil Shah excels in the narrative portions of his sections, but his characters' voices are soft-spoken and not differentiated well, except for the elderly school director, whom he performs splendidly. VERDICT Give this to fans of upbeat romances.--Julie Paladino, formerly with East Chapel Hill H.S., NC

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

Seventeen-year-old Radha Chopra has always loved kathak, a classical dance form from North India. Because of her dedication and hard work, Indian American Radha is world famous--and burned out. She no longer knows if she's dancing for joy or for her mother, Sujata Roy Chopra, who pressures Radha to excel so that she doesn't experience the same regret she feels for leaving her own acclaimed dance career behind two decades before. When Radha refuses to compete in the finals at an international championship in London, her mother is furious. Although Radha is sure that her kathak career is over, she makes a deal with her mother: She will leave Chicago to spend her senior year at an arts academy in Princeton, New Jersey. If Radha works hard and gives dancing one more shot, Sujata promises that she can make her own decisions at the end of the year. Radha is sure that she will give up dance until she meets Jai Patel, a working-class Punjabi Gujarati American boy who is the captain of the school's Bollywood dance team. Radha quickly falls for Jai--but is their romance enough to make her also fall for dancing all over again? This entertaining novel alternates between Jai's and Radha's third-person perspectives. Changes in their relationship, and between each of them and their immigrant families, are well paced, authentic, and page-turning. Both characters are well developed and easy to root for. A perceptive and textured romance. (Romance. 14-18) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Chapter One London, England January Radha Radha had to pee. Like, really bad. Honestly, she should've predicted it after all the years she'd been dancing. Every time she performed, her entire body reacted . . . including her bladder. After nailing a routine she'd been working on for months at the International Kathak Classics semifinals, the urge was particularly heinous. And not a toilet in sight, she thought. Radha looked around backstage for her mother. If she disappeared without letting Sujata Chopra know, the woman would have a meltdown. Sujata was even more high-strung about the competition than Radha was, since it had been her dream for Radha to perform. Being the best had never been a priority for Radha, though. The only thing that mattered to her was that she got the chance to dance. "Hey, Farah," Radha said to the stage manager rushing past her. "Have you seen my mother?" Farah covered the mic attached to her ear and shook her head. "Did you need something?" "I wanted to run to the dressing room for a moment. I have to p--uh, fix my anarkali." She motioned to her long gown, which covered her from her neck to right above her ankles. "If your mum asks, I'll let her know where you are. Go ahead, love. You only have twenty minutes before you'll have to be back in the wings again." "Thanks." Radha hurried down the stairs and into the basement under the stage. The hallways were empty since most of the contestants had left. There were only four semifinalists, so there was no point for the other contestants to stick around. Her ghungroos, two hundred bells on each nylon cord wrapped around her ankles, chimed as she ran on her tiptoes toward the end of the hall. She paused halfway, horrified, just as the event DJ started to play hype music. An Indian classical-dance competition shouldn't have hype music. It was a serious occasion, and random Bollywood movie songs cheapened such a prestigious event. Holy Vishnu, I'm starting to think like my mother. The basement walls vibrated with the sound, which drowned out her footsteps until Radha reached the dressing room. She stepped through the doorway, and over the faded bass from the DJ upstairs she heard the sound of conversation coming from the other side of the lockers. "Yeah, my mom sent me an SMS and said she did amazing," Diya said in her screechy voice. She was the oldest of the semifinalists--twelve years Radha's senior--and had trained with her when they were in Rajasthan, India, a few years ago. "She could dance like a gorilla and she'd still win," Rippi said. "Haven't you heard about her mother?" "Sujata Roy Chopra? The famous kathak dancer, right? Then she just stopped. People forgot about her until Radha showed up, but from what it looks like, Sujata controls Radha like a puppet." Trish, a Canadian dancer, snorted. "It's like her mother says do a chakkar, and Radha turns without question." Oh my God, Radha thought. They were talking about her. She froze, hoping that her ghungroos hadn't given her away. All thoughts of bathroom visits disappeared. "A few people from the committee told me that Sujata Chopra was seen with a principal judge after the celebratory cocktail party," Rippi said. "Apparently Radha's mom and this judge were very, very friendly, if you know what I mean." "I don't think I'm following," Trish said. "Was it just flirting or . . . more?" "Well, from what I was told, they left together. I believe it too. Sujata Chopra has a reputation in the industry. She'd lie, cheat, and steal to make sure her daughter won." No. No way. Radha felt bile burning in the back of her throat. Her mother was a little pushy, but she would never betray her and her father like that. Would she? The idea of her mother cheating . . . Oh my God. "Gross," Diya said. "It makes sense why we've all lost to her so many times, though. Remember the Singapore competition in May? Radha choreographed her own number, and it was awful. She still won, which confused everybody there." "I can definitely see her mother cheating for her to win in Singapore," Trish said. "I wonder if Radha knows. Like, is she the kind of person who is okay with that? She must have an idea of what Sujata is doing. Or who she's doing." "Even if she didn't know about her mom," Diya replied, "she probably wouldn't react if someone told her. She has no personality at all unless she's on a stage. If you ask her a question, it's like you're asking a piece of cardboard. She's nothing, nobody, outside of dance." "The fact that she's boring and a mommy's girl doesn't make me feel bad for her," Rippi said. "What does make me angry is that I spent years working for this moment, to get to the International Kathak Classics, just like you two have, and Radha gets to the finals because her mother is having an affair? That's dirty, and it cheapens our art form." Radha felt the radiating sting of Rippi's words like a punch. Dancers could be mean to each other. She wasn't completely clueless. But Radha had considered these dancers her peers. Instead they were picking her apart and slut-shaming her mother. What was worse, they weren't just talking about her mother cheating, but about her mother doing so to help Radha win a competition that Radha didn't even care about. They had to be wrong. Her mother was pushy and demanding, but she would never jeopardize their family and Radha's career like that. Even as she vehemently denied it in her heart, puzzle pieces from the last few months started to pop into place. Her mother had been acting stranger than usual. Then, last night, she'd said she had to go attend some business meetings. Radha hadn't thought anything of it before putting on a sleep mask and going to bed. She hadn't asked any questions. She never asked questions. Radha wanted to yell, to scream at Diya, Rippi, and Trish. To show them the cuts and bruises on her feet from her hours of practice. To pull out her training calendar and prove to them that she'd worked just as hard as everybody to get to where she was, maybe even harder. Four a.m. wake-up calls for early-morning practice followed by another three to five hours after school every day. No breaks, no vacations, no friends. Her father owned an Indian restaurant in Chicago, for God's sake, but she drank protein shakes and ate steamed veggies every day of her life just to stay in shape. That only proved Diya's point, though: that she had no life outside of kathak. When she was a kid, she used to say that kathak gave her "dance joy" and made her feel complete. But where did that leave her? No personality, and a slew of competitive wins that were now questionable. She rocked on her heels, and her ghungroos made the faintest ringing sound. Her breath came short and fast now as her lungs tried to pull in enough air. Oh my God. Was she having a panic attack? She could tell because it felt familiar, even though she hadn't experienced one in a long time. She'd been managing her performance anxiety just fine. Especially when she focused on her love for dance, and not the onstage part. But there wasn't a stage in sight. Her hand trembled as she pressed her fingertips to her lips. She breathed in deep through her nose, hoping to stop the dizziness, the urge to gasp for air. The hype music began to fade, and the three girls moved in a flurry of ruffling costumes and bells. "Let's go," Rippi said. "We don't want to be late." Radha was still standing in the doorway when they appeared from behind the lockers. Their faces were a study of shock and horror when they saw her. She didn't care. Radha watched them for a moment, feeling a sickening sense of satisfaction at their discomfort, before tilting her chin up. Like hell would she let the competition see her trembling, struggling to take deep breaths. She walked past them, hands fisted, toward the back of the dressing room. Radha focused on putting one foot in front of the other until she reached the table that had been assigned to her. The surface was covered in tubes, color palettes, hairpins, and safety pins. She picked up her empty bag from the floor and, with one quick jerk of her arm, swept everything into the duffel. She then went to her locker to put on her coat and shoes. In less than a minute she had all her things together and was ready to go. Her three competitors were still rooted in the spot where she'd left them. Radha strode forward until she was nose to nose with Rippi. The twenty-six-year-old looked fake in her stage makeup, with rosy red cheeks and eyeliner that covered most of her lids. Radha's voice was as sharp as a blade. "Slut-shaming is a reflection on you more than anyone else. Don't ever talk about my mother like that again." Rippi jumped and visibly swallowed. She didn't say another word as Radha walked around her and left the dressing room. She passed familiar faces, people who touched her arm, as she made her way into the lobby. She was going to keep walking until the sounds of the DJ's horrible music went away and she could find silence at the hotel. Her pulse raced as she grew closer and closer to the exit doors. This place was no longer for her. "Radha! Radha, where are you going?" The familiar sound of her mother's voice didn't slow her down. "Radha Chopra, stop this instant!" Long, slender fingers grabbed her arm and whirled her around. Her mother, radiating anger, looked more out of place in the lobby than Radha did. Sujata's white pencil heels and white pantsuit were what Radha always thought of as her mother's pharmaceutical-company-executive attire. Now she realized that the woman was trying to stand out in a sea of South Asian clothes. She wanted the spotlight more than Radha ever did. "Where do you think you're going?" Radha's mother hissed. "They're about to announce the finalists! I went downstairs to get you, and those girls told me you left with your bags. Do you know how embarrassing that was for me? What's gotten into you, causing a scene like this? You're lucky this competition allowed so few people backstage; otherwise, you would never have been able to leave my side for one second!" "Did you sleep with one of the judges, Mom?" The question should've warranted a slap across the face. It was crude, and disrespectful, and delivered with all the bubbling hostility Radha felt inside her body. Some Indian parents wouldn't have hesitated to deliver a swift punishment. Instead Sujata's grip slackened, and her jaw dropped. "Where did you--where did you hear that?" "It's true, isn't it? It's true that you . . . How could you? I think I'm going to be sick." "This is not a place to talk about family. Come on, stop the dramatics. Let's go." Radha stepped back, out of her mother's reach. "No. You swore you'd never lie to me. That you'd always be honest. And you are! Just this morning. My makeup needs work. My feet are slow. I start slacking at the two-minute mark. Now I'm asking you for the truth again. Did you cheat on Daddy? Did you do it with a judge? For what, because you wanted me to win?" Radha's mother straightened. "Don't you dare talk to me like that, Radha. I don't know why you've decided to misbehave now, but we have been working for this moment for your entire career. You will not lose sight of what is important." "You can't even deny it," Radha said. She felt revulsion, like she was on the verge of vomiting, and the idea of dancing only made the feeling worse. The tremors that had started in her hands were now quaking through her whole body. "It's all over your face. How c-could you? How could you d-do this?" "Radha, it's not . . . it's so much more complicated than you think, sweetheart." Her mother's voice softened almost to a whisper. "Your father and I have a lot of pressure on our shoulders, and this has nothing to do with you, or with the competition. For years I--" "This has been going on for years?" "No! Yes. I mean--just come backstage." She tugged on Radha's coat sleeve. "Finish the competition, and we'll talk." Radha pulled away even as her vision blurred and her muscles tightened. She was going to vomit all over the lobby floor. "No. I'm not going anywhere with you." "Radha, you have nowhere else to go! Look where you are!" She waved her hands in a windmill motion. "To Dad. I'm going to Dad," she said with a wheeze. "And then what?" She clapped inches from Radha's face. "I'm the one who travels with you, who comes to every practice, to every performance. I'm the one who has always had your future, your life as my best interest." "Dad has always loved me!" "You and your father don't even speak to each other!" Radha felt the air get sucked from her lungs. People were watching now, and she wasn't going to fall apart in front of them. Not like this. "At least he would never betray me," she whispered. She backed away, and for the second time in the span of minutes, in moments, she was satisfied at seeing the shock on someone else's face. "Radha, Radha, don't go." This time, her mother's voice cracked. "You've fought so hard to be here! Please. Please don't do this." "I can't, Mom." Her voice hiccupped with the sob she could no longer control. "All I'll ever be able to think about now is whether I'm dancing for me or dancing for you. Or, worse, if you didn't think I could win on my own, so you went behind my back, behind Daddy's back, because you wanted to win more than me, because you stopped dancing before you could win this competition yourself." "Don't say that, Radha. Will you please just--please calm down for a second? You love to dance. Your dance joy, right? The moment when you're so happy? You'll never lose that." "I think I already have," Radha sobbed. "And you're the one who took it away from me." She spun, racing for the door. Her heart was being shredded into a thousand tiny particles as she rushed toward her hotel. The sound of her ghungroos rang like an alarm signaling the end of everything that had made her feel safe. Excerpted from Radha and Jai's Recipe for Romance by Nisha Sharma All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.