Review of Jasmine Zumideh Needs a Win by Susan Azim Boyer @WednesdayBooks @susanjenna

Twenty steps up from your typical YA novel! I

Blurb: It’s 1979, and Jasmine Zumideh is ready to get the heck out of her stale, Southern California suburb and into her dream school, NYU, where she’ll major in journalism and cover New York City’s exploding music scene.

There’s just one teeny problem: Due to a deadline snafu, she maaaaaaybe said she was Senior Class President-Elect on her application―before the election takes place. But honestly, she’s running against Gerald Thomas, a rigid rule-follower whose platform includes reinstating a dress code―there’s no way she can lose. And she better not, or she’ll never get into NYU.

But then, a real-life international incident turns the election upside down. Iran suddenly dominates the nightly news, and her opponent seizes the opportunity to stir up anti-Iranian hysteria at school and turn the electorate against her. Her brother, Ali, is no help. He’s become an outspoken advocate for Iran just as she’s trying to downplay her heritage.

Now, as the white lie she told snowballs into an avalanche, Jasmine is stuck between claiming her heritage or hiding it, standing by her outspoken brother or turning her back on him, winning the election or abandoning her dreams for good.

Told with biting insight and fierce humor, Susan Azim Boyer’s Jasmine Zumideh Needs a Win is a fresh, unforgettable story of one Iranian-American young woman’s experience navigating her identity, friendship, family, her future, and a budding romance, all set against life-changing historical events with present-day relevance.

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The year is 1979 and high school senior Jasmine Zumideh has her heart set on attending journalism school at NYU but she doesn’t place in the contest that she thought would make her a shoo-in so she needs to find something fast. Her rival and nemesis, Gerald Thomas says that he’s running for senior class president and she figures, why not?, and decides that she too will run for senior class president to get that coveted extra-curricular. Unfortunately, she applies early decision to NYU, stating that she was already senior class president so now she just needs to make sure that it happens in Jasmine Zumideh Needs a Win by Susan Azim Boyer.

Jasmine Zumideh Needs a Win just works on so many levels that I found it extremely hard to put down and very easy to pick up. Jasmine is Iranian and in 1979 people who couldn’t find Iran on a map suddenly could after Iranian students take American hostages. Patriotic furor overtook the US with the Beach Boys’ Barbara Ann suddenly becoming “Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Bomb Iran.” Jasmine finds herself caught between wanting to be identified as American and yet wanting to speak the truth, as her brother Ali does, about what Russia, the UK, and America have done in Iran.

Unfortunately, Jasmine, although conflicted, frequently makes the wrong decisions because she is so focused on winning. There’s one great big snowball effect that rolls that’s cringy, and though you want Jasmine to win because you like her1, you also know she needs to admit and atone for all of her selfish decisions.

Besides Jasmine’s run for senior president, there’s also a subplot of her parents’ separation, her best friend, Bridget’s relationship with a guy that Jasmine can’t stand (for good reason), lots of music mentions because Jasmine dreams of being a music journalist, and a boy, Mike, who seems perfect and just may well be.

I found it difficult to believe that this is Susan Azim Boyer’s debut novel because everything about it from the writing to the conflicts to the history was just so good and thoughtful. It’s not often that general YA novels discuss real history as opposed to what governments provide.

And talk about just so good, Jasmine’s aunt cooks what sounds like delicious meals for them while Jasmine’s father is away for work; I will be looking for a vegetarian gormeh sabzi recipe as well as trying to recreate a breakfast of flatbread, feta, walnuts and honey (omg!).

An excellent debut novel from Boyer and I look forward to reading more from her.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

1Yes, I liked Jasmine. I thought she made one bad decision that got away from her and then she just kept making them. I think she was a confused teenager who was lacking guidance because her parents weren’t there for her, her aunt/caretaker was beyond upset about her own mother who lived outside of Teheran in Iran and the possibility that she might lose her green card, and Jasmine’s own friends were having their own crises.

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