Last week, I finished the most wonderful book that reminded me of what it felt like to fall in love for the first time. That book was The Jasmine Project by Meredith Ireland, an upcoming YA romantic-comedy about a Korean American teen adoptee whose big and loving family set her up with three bachelors after her boyfriend cheats on her – without her knowing. The Jasmine Project was an utter delight; I squealed way too many times into my pillow because some of the scenes were just so downright adorable.
Today, I get the honour of sharing with you an excerpt of The Jasmine Project! The beginning of this book won me over instantly, so you’ll get to see what I mean in the two first chapters that I get to share with you all today.
But before we dive into the excerpt, a little bit about The Jasmine Project. (And don’t forget to come back next week, as I’ll be sharing the awesome interview that I did with the author, Meredith Ireland!)
The Jasmine Project by Meredith Ireland
Jasmine Yap’s life is great. Well, it’s okay. She’s about to move in with her long-time boyfriend, Paul, before starting a nursing program at community college—all of which she mostly wants. But her stable world is turned upside down when she catches Paul cheating. To her giant, overprotective family, Paul’s loss is their golden ticket to showing Jasmine that she deserves much more. The only problem is, Jasmine refuses to meet anyone new.
But…what if the family set up a situation where she wouldn’t have to know? A secret Jasmine Project.
The plan is simple: use Jasmine’s graduation party as an opportunity for her to meet the most eligible teen bachelors in Orlando. There’s no pressure for Jasmine to choose anyone, of course, but the family hopes their meticulously curated choices will show Jasmine how she should be treated. And maybe one will win her heart.
But with the family fighting for their favorites, bachelors going rogue, and Paul wanting her back, the Jasmine Project may not end in love but total, heartbreaking disaster.
Excerpt: The Jasmine Project by Meredith Ireland
Burrito Fridays are an institution. The cornerstone of my relationship with Paul and how we started dating. One fateful day in freshman bio he passed me a note that said, “Wanna go to Chipotle y/y?” and the rest was history.
I framed the ripped piece of paper and it rests on my dresser next to pictures of us at junior prom last year and senior prom this year. Yes, it’s a little cheesy that I kept the note and bedazzled JASMINE ❤S PAUL on the frame, but that’s okay. Cheese is honest.
I pull my long hair into a ponytail just as my sister knocks on my door.
“Almost ready?” she asks.
Carissa’s giving me a ride to Tijuana Outpost. I’m sure Paul would’ve picked me up if I’d asked, but I like driving with Cari. I missed her this past year when she was away at college.
“Almost done,” I say.
“You look pretty, Jaz.” She smiles.
Do I? Not compared to her, but I take a last look in the mirror. I look okay—Korean and kind of plain. I wish I were comfortable wearing the tiny rompers and miniskirts that catch Paul’s eye, but even this spaghetti-strapped shirt makes me uneasy. I keep moving it around hoping it’ll cover more boob, and so far . . . no. No, it does not.
I fuss with it more, then give up. It’s fine. Really. No one will be looking at me, anyhow.
“All set,” I say.
Cari stands straight to her ridiculous five-nine height. She’s the combo of our Filipino and white parents and a full eight inches taller than me. Everyone asks if she’s a model. Note: no one happens to ask me that question.
“Davey’s coming along for the ride,” she says as we pad down the cool, tiled hall.
“Ugh, he’s just trying to mooch a free burrito,” I say.
“He definitely is. Stay strong, little sis,” Cari says with a wink.
As we walk into the living room, Davey jumps up from lounging on the couch.
“Man, I’m so hungry,” he says, patting his T-shirt-clad stomach. I swear it’s like he ESPed his way into our burrito conversation. “Basketball really took it out of me today,” he continues. “I wish . . . shoot, if only I could get a part-time job like you guys. Mom and Dad are being extra stingy with the allowance, and I’m starving.”
He reminds me of Mrs. Hernandez’s twenty-two-pound cat, Cuddles, who circles, mews, and begs for food like he’ll waste away if there’s not kibble in his dish, stat.
“You don’t get an allowance because you don’t help around the house,” Cari says, folding her arms.
“Because he doesn’t need an allowance,” I say. “Aren’t you at least a part-time bookie at this point?” I reach up and run my hand over his brown curls.
He skews his face trying to look hard. It fails. He has the same deep dimples as when he came into our family as a toddler. Of the three Yap kids, zero of us look alike, two are adopted, two are Asian biracial, and we’re 100 percent family.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Davey says. “Just because a man can spot some hidden financial opportunities does not make him a bookie.”
“Man? What man? Where?” I arch my eyebrow.
“I don’t see one.” Cari puts her hand on her forehead, scanning.
Davey pushes my palm off his head, which isn’t hard as he’s fourteen but already six inches taller than me. He frowns.
“Damn, you guys.”
“Aw, we’re sorry, baby,” Cari says.
She does not, incidentally, sound sorry.
“I’m crushed,” he says. “I gotta think this kind of offense to my manhood is worth say . . . half a burrito from each of you.” He rubs his palms together and waits.
“You’re pathetic,” Cari says at the same time I say, “Fine.”
He smiles, all white teeth against dark brown skin. He knew I’d give in. But he’s my little bro and I can’t help it.
We make our way over to the shoe tray and slip on our “We should probably bring dinner home anyhow,” Cari says. “Mom’s at the hospital until eight, and she’ll be hungry.”
Our mother is a labor and delivery nurse at Orlando Medical Center and works long shifts, plus overtime. Years ago I started making dinner on the four nights a week she’s gone, since Dad and Cari are amazing except . . . not at cooking. And Dad’s out of town today for a library conference, anyhow. I hadn’t realized Mom was staying at work through dinnertime. If it weren’t Burrito Friday, I’d whip something up, but I can’t let Paul down.
“I’ll treat to takeout from Tijuana’s,” I say.
“Nah, I got it, Jaz. I just got paid from the ad sponsors,” Cari says.
My sister is the host of a wildly popular The Bachelor podcast. It’s the number-one teen fancast, podblast, or whatever. Our whole family talks about it. Except me. Podcasts aren’t my thing, and neither are fake romance reality shows, but it makes her happy and earns her money so I’m all for it. She’ll need to save up anyhow, being prelaw.
“And, no offense, but we’ll probably get Agave,” she adds, opening the front door.
None taken. I know it’s better.
“Sweet! Yes! Agave!” Davey says with an arm pump.
“Burrito and queso and chips and guac for Daveeey.”
“You’re not getting queso and guac,” Cari says.
We step into the soupy humidity of Florida in May, and she locks our wooden door behind her.
“Cari!” Davey clutches his chest. “How could I possibly choose between the smoothness of avocado and the beauty of cheesy goodness?”
“You’re cheesy, all right,” Cari mutters.
“I like both too,” I say as we head to the carport. “I wish Paul weren’t lactose intolerant and we could split queso fundido.”
Cari and Davey exchange looks as she unlocks the Corolla. As I stare from one to the other, I get a distinct uncomfortable feeling. Like I farted in an elevator or something and they don’t know what to say.
“What?” I look around.
“Nothing,” they respond at the same time.
Yeah, that’s not weird. “No. What?”
“It’s just that Paul . . . ,” Cari says. Then she opens the driver’s-side door and slides behind the wheel.
“It’s just that Paul what?” I open the passenger door but pause before getting in.
“Well . . . it’s just that he sucks,” Davey says, diving into the backseat.
I sigh and lower myself into the red car. It’s not the first time we’ve had the Paul Kinda Sucks discussion, but it’s been a while. My family doesn’t see him the way I do, and we’ve accepted the impasse. Mostly.
“He has a food allergy, Davey,” I say. “That’s not the same as being difficult.”
My seat belt clicks like it agrees with me. It’s weird to sit in the passenger side of what’s been my car since Cari left for college. Freshmen at Miami can’t have cars on campus, so I lucked into getting the Corolla for a year. But Cari will take it with her in August. I’ve tried not to think about my impending car-lessness.
I’ve kept the Rolla immaculate for her/us. No beach sand. No food or drink inside. I make an exception for Paul, but I don’t mention that.
“It’s not the queso, Jaz,” Cari says. She bites her lip.
“It’s . . . well, he . . .”
“He’s an asshole,” Davey says.
Cari purses her lips but doesn’t contradict him.
“Language, or I’m telling Mom,” I say, pointing at my brother’s face.
We’re all teenagers and cursing is pretty minor, but Mom still sees Davey as the toddler they adopted from the Dominican Republic and she’d give him the business about his mouth.
Davey raises his hands. “Sorry, but he is, and you deserve better. A lot better.”
“Aw, look at my baby brother trying to act all grown and protective.” I turn in my seat and lay a kiss on his cheek. He promptly wipes it off, because we’ve reached that stage.
“Knock it off, loser,” Davey says, pushing me back into my seat.
“You knock it off,” I say. “You know Paul is solid. He’s the one who taught you how to play basketball. And he bought you those sneakers, which you need to get off our car this instant.” I push his foot from the center console and wipe it with my hand. “And don’t you have plans to turn my room into your gaming den when I move out? You should be thrilled that we’re close to finding an apartment for August.”
I have to add a little more cheer than I feel at the exaggeration. We’ve been looking for a place near our future colleges . . . or I’ve been. All Paul’s done is shoot down my top choices as being “too far” or “too expensive.” The second is funny as his family practically trips and falls into piles of money.
Cari glances in the rearview mirror and exchanges another set of looks with Davey.
“That’s great, Jaz,” she says. “Really. Are . . . are you ready for the graduation party?”
“Um, just about,” I lie.
For the record, I’m not a good liar. Between studying for finals, going to prom, and planning out my future, I haven’t given it more than a passing thought. And the party isn’t for another eight days, anyhow. That’s a lifetime away.
“Well, Aunt Minnie, Cousin Teagan, Cousin Crystal, and Aunt Tammy all want to know if you picked out a dress yet,” Cari says. “And what color, so they don’t wear the same.”
As Cari pulls down our street, Davey leans forward and turns on the radio. He puts on rock and moves the sound to the rear speakers to block us out like the little punk he is.
I shoot him a look and Cari gives me one right back. Oh, yeah. The dress. The one I don’t have. I was supposed to get a dress but helped Paul pick out a new shirt instead.
“Um . . . it’s a shade of . . . not yet,” I say.
Cari raises a threaded eyebrow. She’s only nineteen, but sometimes, like when she disapproves, it feels like she’s thirty. “You’d better get on that before Aunt Tammy takes you shopping.”
Aunt Tammy is one of our fifteen assorted aunts and uncles (not to mention the unrelateds we call “Auntie”). She means well, but her taste is like a beauty pageant on safari—all sequins and animal prints and feathers. She’s been designing her own purses lately and . . . they’re a lot.
“The family is excited,” Cari says. “Uncle Vin has special #owers ordered, and you know Aunt Jay is going to cater. Or . . . Aunt Jay is going to cook and Mom is going to question every decision she makes.”
My heart still squeezes at the mention of Aunt Jay cooking, but I let it go because Cari continues.
“Also, Cousin Wesley is bringing his newest girlfriend,” she says.
I move my eyes to their corners trying to recall the girl’s name. “Julie?” I guess.
Cari shakes her head as we drive down Aloma Avenue. “No, that was last month. This one is Amanda.”
I raise my eyebrows and purse my lips. We have twenty-six first cousins, which is enough to keep track of without one of them being the Serial Dater of Central Florida Med School. Add the five people of my nuclear family to my cousins, my aunts and uncles, and my grandparents on the Yap and Ventura sides, and we’re fifty people strong.
Basically, if I sneeze in Orlando, forty-nine people say bless you.
“I know you’ve had exams, but you should get more into the party,” Cari says. “You have all summer to look at apartments and whatever with Paul, but your graduation is special. I can take you dress shopping this weekend, if you want.”
My sister has all the taste I lack as evidenced by her looking like she stepped out of Asian Vogue. Plus, she won’t pressure me like Mom. Mom’s great, but she has opinions.
“That’d be awesome,” I say.
She smiles. “Let’s do it tomorrow. I have to prep on Sunday for the big watch party on Monday.”
“Ah, yes, Bachelor in Purgatory is starting,” I say.
“That’s what I said.”
She side-eyes me, though she cracks a smile. When traffic clears, Cari takes a left into the strip mall parking lot. There are much better burritos in town (for example, Agave), but Paul likes the routine of Tijuana’s. So do I.
“You sure you don’t want to just have dinner with us?” Cari asks as she pulls into a spot near the entrance.
I wrinkle my brow at her and tilt my head. What a strange question. “It’s Burrito Friday,” I say. It’s self-explanatory. We’ve done it for nearly four years.
“Didn’t he cancel on you two weeks ago?” Davey asks.
“Oh, now you can hear us?” I aim a pointed look at the backseat.
Cari lowers the music. “We, um . . .”
“There was uh . . . ,” Davey says.
We linger in the car as they utter more “ums” and “uhs.” I know they’re trying to tell me something, but I wish they’d hurry up. It’s after six o’clock, and I don’t want to keep Paul
I tap my foot and linger another minute. Sixty slow seconds grate on my skin, and I keep sighing and glancing at the storefront. He’s going to be upset, and things have been off between us. I don’t want to make it worse by being late.
Finally, I push open the car door. Whatever it is, we can talk when I get home.
“Guys, I have to go,” I say.
Davey and Cari exchange yet another glance.
“Have fun,” Davey says.
“See you later, Jaz,” Cari adds.
I want to know what’s so hard to say, but I get out of the car and hustle into Tijuana Outpost.
DAVEY’S FAMILY GROUP TEXT
So, that went great
Yeah, way to step up. Coward
Me??? You were all like: I’m the BIG sister, I’LL tell
Are you really texting each other when you’re in the same house?
You feel that?
Did Daddy adjust the Nest thermostat again?
What am I being accused of now, mahal?
No, it’s not the AC. It’s def the wind from two parents hovering overhead
We are NOT helicopter parents, thank you very much . . .
Idk that’s exactly what a helicopter parent would say . . .
Very funny. You included us in this chat! But you left off Jaz . . .
Because we need to talk about her
How’d she take the news? I’m sorry I couldn’t be there. I’ll be home tomorrow
You missed nothing. Some ‘man’ chickened out
You were supposed to tell her!
About the bimbo?
Momma, please, we don’t know that she’s a bimbo. I don’t think people even use that word anymore. We just know Paul was with a girl and definitely not ‘sick’ when he canceled on Jaz two weeks ago
Yeah, he was studying with some girl at a concert.
At night. With his arms around her, feeling on some
side boob. And lying to Jaz about it. Sure sure
I’m just saying it might not be how it looks
We can’t keep going round after round on this. We need the family
You don’t mean the entire . . .
(Thirty-two people enter the chat.)
What’s going on?
We have a bit of a crisis here
Who’s in jail??
You didn’t even let her finish
Oh, my bad, but I know a good bail bondsman if you need one, Dolores
We’d just call my brother Rich at the DA’s office if someone was in jail. No, it’s . . .
David you tell them
Scumbag Paul is cheating on Jaz. He was tagged
on IG with a busty blonde (link)
(Outraged replies until . . .)
That’s not how we describe women, Davey
Oh here we go. You’ve set off the feminist bath bomb. Just let her go until she fizzles out
Whatever Wylan. The objectification of women is a huge problem in this country. Silence doesn’t help
Awesome comeback, bro! Shame Harvard hasn’t recruited you yet
Sidebar, both of you. I apologize for my children. They need to go back to school
School just ended
My point exactly
Let’s get back on track. Poor Jaz. She deserves so much better
Are we going to talk about how this guy keeps getting such great girls?
I mean he should teach a class or something. Is he wearing a fanny pack in that pic?
Let it go, cuz
Can everyone just focus? Jaz doesn’t know yet
(A full minute of silence passes—unheard of for this family.)
It’s a shame we can’t take care of this like we would in the old country
I’ve suggested a hitman, Mama, but I’ve been overruled
Violence isn’t the answer, mi amore. Even if it’s tempting
We have to do something
I don’t get it. Why are we triaging this? Just tell Jaz and let her dump the jerk
I think the fear is that even if Jaz knows she’ll stay with him because she’s never understood she’s worth more
(Another thirty seconds of silence.)
About the Author
Meredith Ireland is a Korean-American attorney and writer, born in Seoul. She is a Rollins College and University of Miami School of Law alumna. She writes adult and children’s books and is proudly represented by Lauren Abramo of Dystel, Goderich & Bourrett LLC. Her debut novel, THE JASMINE PROJECT will be published on September 7, 2021 by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers. The forthcoming follow up EVERYONE HATES KELSIE MILLER is scheduled for Fall 2022.
Meredith resides in New York with her two children and a county fair goldfish who will probably outlive them all.