Radha & Jai's Recipe for Romance

Book review by
Nayanika Kapoor, Common Sense Media
Radha & Jai's Recipe for Romance Book Poster Image
Light, Indian-dance-themed romance has positive messages.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Good introduction to Indian culture, especially food, language and dance. Characters cook Indian dishes throughout the book, and discuss Bollywood films and dance styles in depth. Discusses mental health struggles and panic attacks in depth. 

Positive Messages

Pursue your passions in ways that are most meaningful to you. Follow your dreams, even when they require perseverance. Allow your family and friends to support you when things are tough. Struggling with mental health is OK, and deserves care and support.  

Positive Role Models & Representations

Both main characters are Indian and very in touch with their cultural roots, through dance, food and family. Jai and Radha are both ambitious, talented and smart, even though they sometimes lose their way in how to accomplish their goals. One of the side characters is openly bisexual and briefly discusses stereotypes associated with the "gay best friend." They discuss the large differences in financial stability and class between the two main characters and how they impact their personal decisions. Radha has a very complicated relationship with both of her parents, and her parents sometimes make choices that can hurt Radha and vice versa. However, she actively works on her relationship with her parents throughout the book to make it better. This book discusses and destigmatizes mental health struggles, panic attacks and seeing a therapist, especially in South Asian communities. However, one of the characters accuses another of using anxiety as an excuse, which can be stigmatizing and limiting. This book also briefly talks about disability and long-term illness, and not treating people with disabilities as weak or a burden. One of the characters briefly talks about slut-shaming.

Violence

Mother of the main character slaps her in an argument. One of the characters was in a car crash several years ago that left him severely injured.

Sex

There are rumors that a main characters mother "slept with" one of the judges of a dance competition. Lots of vivid descriptions of kissing, but not much else. One of the characters asks another "Have you hooked up yet?" A main character mentions needing to cover up a hickey. The two main characters are in a house alone, and they imply that something could happen, but nothing ends up happening. Mention of adding some "sex appeal" to a dance.

Language

Swearing sprinkled in throughout, including "s--t," "hell," "ass," "damn," "crap." One use of "f--k." Brief discussion of "slut-shaming." 

Consumerism

Characters discuss how having an Audi car is an indication that another character rich.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Reference to "smoking a joint."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Radha & Jai's Recipe for Romance, by Nisha Sharma (My So-Called Bollywood Life), is about a romance between two Indian American teens who are navigating family, following their passions, and mental health issues. Radha has a very complicated relationship with both of her parents: one parent who controls most of her life, and the other who's largely absent. In one argument, Radha's mother slaps her. Radha has panic attacks throughout the novel, and goes to therapy and uses dance to cope with her anxiety. She and her family take mental health seriously, and they discuss how mental health and therapy can often be stigmatized in the South Asian community. Radha and Jai are both very connected to their culture, and this book is a very good introduction to Indian culture and teens who have a great relationship with their roots. Both teens are very passionate and ambitious, and use dance as an outlet for creativity and culture. There's some strong language, including one use of "f--k," "asshole," "badass," "bulls--t," but it's not common. There is a mention of smoking weed, but none of the characters partake. There are many descriptions of kissing, but not much else. One of the characters has a stroke and almost passes away, which can be difficult for younger readers to read.

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What's the story?

In RADHA & JAI'S RECIPE FOR ROMANCE, Radha and Jai find each other right in time. Radha has just left the Kathak dance world, for good, after an embarrassing incident at the International Kathak Classics competition in London. She moves to New Jersey, desperate for a fresh start, while struggling with anxiety and panic attacks every time she steps on a dance floor. Jai, the captain of the Bollywood dance team, is desperately trying to put together a routine for the Winter Showcase, and is convinced that he has to give up his dreams of going to Columbia in order to take care of his family. Quickly, Radha and Jai realize that they can help each other dance through the difficulties of family, figuring out your future and overcoming fear. With lots of Bollywood movies, a family recipe book and a stellar dance routine, Radha and Jai remember how important it is to follow your dreams and find joy in what you do.

Is it any good?

This book cute, feel-good story will have readers rooting for the sweet romance between Radha and Jai. Fans of Indian food and Bollywood culture will love the recipes and movie references sprinkled throughout that spice up the story. Radha & Jai's Recipe for Romance does a good job of destigmatizing mental health struggles and panic attacks, and makes sure that the characters aren't seen as weak or powerless. However, sometimes, the arguments between characters can seem rushed and unresolved. Even though some of the underlying problems are not addressed, the book rushes into a happy ending that feels nice but leaves some questions unanswered and can come across as unrealistic. 

Overall, this is a fun, light read for romance fans interested in learning more about Indian culture and what the Indian American experience looks like for different people, but lacks the depth required for some of the topics that it broaches. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Radha and Jai find their own relationships to their culture, even though they are very different, in Radha & Jai's Recipe for Romance. How do you connect to your family and culture? How is that different from how your friends celebrate their roots? 

  • Radha spent her whole life dancing, and then recreated her passion in another way. What are you passionate about? How do you share that? 

  • Jai was very supportive of Radha when she was struggling with panic attacks. How do you support friends who might be going through difficult things or mental health issues? 

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love romance and stories with South Asian characters

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