Readers guide a middle schooler to various romance possibilities in this gentle series opener that’s similar to a Choose Your Own Adventure book.
Tara Singh helps out at her family’s sweet shop, Mmmumbai, where famous Bollywood actress Preeti Chandran chooses to order her wedding cake and sweets. Tara, more interested in Broadway than Bollywood, plans to audition for Dorothy in the school production of The Wizard of Oz and is faced with interesting dilemmas that readers will decide: Should Tara go to the audition or to Preeti Chandran’s wedding? Should she rehearse with Hiro or go to Preeti’s movie with Rohan? The cast is diverse. Tara is of Indian origin (depicted on the cover with dark hair and brown skin), as is childhood friend Rohan (could he be more than annoying-older-brother material?). Best friend Yael Lewis is Jewish (whose bat mitzvah anchors companion title Yael and the Party of the Year). Meanwhile, is Tara’s forever crush and BMOC Hiro Nakahara (with cued Japanese heritage) really interested in Tara? Or will quiet, shy, and clever Desmond Flynn, a white boy with blue eyes and freckles, be the one with whom Tara initiates a brief kiss? The book is heavy on teen tropes, from texting and emojis to eye rolls and air quotes. Characters, however, both primary and secondary, are not well-fleshed-out, parts of the book are repetitive, and the story on the whole is not memorable.
Only for those readers who care more about romance and the gimmick than plot and character. (Interactive fiction. 10-12)