In Artichoke Hearts, the heroine of the book, Mira Levenson, deals with her feelings of loss at the death of her grandmother, and her first romance with a refugee boy called Jide.
In this book, Mira is older, and flying out to India for the first time to meet her aunt and cousin. She knows very little about the Indian side of her family, as her mother and aunt have something secret in their past which means that their friendship has come adrift.
Mira goes to find her roots, and along the way discovers what it is that has changed the family dynamic. In trying to heal the rift in her family she also uncovers her feelings for a young man called Janu, and it calls into question her relationship with Jide, the boy she falls in love with in Artichoke Hearts. Mira must learn to listen to her heart, and find where she really belongs.
This book takes Mira further on her journey into the teenage years, questioning if a first love can really be a true love, and how to read your own heart. It also talks about family and your place in it.
Jasmine Skies is as beautifully written as Artichoke Hearts, Brahmachari writes with a painterly eye, and her descriptions of India are spectacular. She is also good at empathising with and describing the confusion of teenage love.
I don’t think this sequel is as strong as Artichoke Hearts however. At the heart of the first book is a meditation on loss. In this book, there seems to be a missing element, the story line seems rather fragmented, and at times chaotic. There is not the cohesiveness of the first book. I liked it, because the character of Mira is a fascinating one, and I wanted to know what happened to her next, but I got the sense that the book was rather rushed, and the whole thing felt a bit unfinished. I hope there is a third volume.
The book is suitable for girls rather than boys, written again from Mira’s point of view and dealing with the dilemmas of the female heart. In this book in particular, the boys’ characters are not particularly strong. Jide is only in it briefly, and his presence is there as a foil for Mira’s feelings of doubt and exploration of love. Janu remains somewhat of a cipher, and at times seems more of a mystical than a physical figure, which I thought was a shame.
I recommend the book for children aged twelve and up, dealing as it does with teenage love. It is not sexually explicit, but it is frank about teenage issues, and as such probably not suitable for younger readers.