Lucy Wu, aspiring basketball star and interior designer, is on the verge of having the best year of her life. She’s ready to rule the school as a sixth grader and take over the bedroom she has always shared with her sister. In an instant, though, her plans are shattered when she finds out that Yi Po, her beloved grandmother’s sister, is coming to visit for several months — and is staying in Lucy’s room. Lucy’s vision of a perfect year begins to crumble, and in its place come an unwelcome roommate, foiled birthday plans, and Chinese school with the awful Talent Chang.
Let me just say, not every tween is bratty, self-centered and/or messy. And when you do make that type of tween, there’s a fine line between making them likable and making them not likable. I did not like Lucy Wu. I hated the way she did the narration, because even though I liked the ideas of this book, I was distracted by how much I disliked Lucy. Her personality, how Wendy Wan-Long Shang wrote her and how her transformation as a character stopped and started.
There were certain aspects to this book that I enjoyed, the Chinese-American aspects and what it’s like to not really fit in. When I was really little, I didn’t like kimchi so my older brother told me I couldn’t be Korean anymore. Even so, I didn’t really feel like I could relate with Lucy. There is a way to make tweens likable while still being realistic. Below are books I think did a better job of this.
I think this book will probably appeal to it’s target audience of Grades 4-6, but I know in fourth through sixth grade I was reading about characters far better than Lucy Wu. Now, on the bright side, I liked the end product of Lucy a lot. She learned to love her family and appreciate things about them. Sometimes family can embarrass you, but we all tend to do that to each other, and family is family. In Asian cultures, giving respect to your elders is really, really important, so I was glad to see how Lucy got to recognize Yi Po and love her and recognize how much Yi Po cared about her.
I liked the way that this book was realistic and touched base on many different subjects in the life of an Asian-American kid and all the different things they talked about. Overall, a three star book.
Rules by Cynthia Lord
I read this book on my run of books about people with disabilities, and I found myself enjoying it a lot. Lovable characters and a realistic, heart-warming story about family and what they mean to us. Four stars.
Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Catherine just wants a normal life. Which is near impossible when you have a brother with autism and a family that revolves around his disability. She’s spent years trying to teach David the rules-from “a peach is not a funny-looking apple” to “keep your pants on in public”-in order to stop his embarrassing behaviors. But the summer Catherine meets Jason, a paraplegic boy, and Kristi, the next-door friend she’s always wished for, it’s her own shocking behavior that turns everything upside down and forces her to ask: What is normal?
pg count for the hardcover: 208
Recommended for Girls and Boys 10-12
Shug by Jenny Han
I loved Jenny Han’s other books, so I decided to try Shug when I heard about it on Goodreads. I was prepared not to like it, because about half of the books I read “just-because-I-liked-the-author’s-other-books” aren’t that great. I was pleasantly surprised by Shug and it was a great book. Four stars.
Synopsis: Annemarie Wilcox, or Shug as her family calls her, is beginning to think there’s nothing worse than being twelve. She’s too tall, too freckled, and way too flat-chested. Shug is sure that there’s not one good or amazing thing about her. And now she has to start junior high, where the friends she counts most dear aren’t acting so dear anymore — especially Mark, the boy she’s known her whole life through. Life is growing up all around her, and all Shug wants is for things to be like they used to be. How is a person supposed to prepare for what happens tomorrow when there’s just no figuring out today?
pg count for the hardcover: 248
Recommended for Girls 9-13
A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban
I really thought I wouldn’t like this book, but I did. The synopsis makes it seem a little lame, but it was a great book that I really liked the ending to and will really appeal to it’s target audience.
Synopsis: Ten-year-old Zoe Elias has perfect piano dreams. She can practically feel the keys under her flying fingers; she can hear the audience’s applause. All she needs is a baby grand so she can start her lessons, and then she’ll be well on her way to Carnegie Hall. But when Dad ventures to the music store and ends up with a wheezy organ instead of a piano, Zoe’s dreams hit a sour note. Learning the organ versions of old TV theme songs just isn’t the same as mastering Beethoven on the piano. And the organ isn’t the only part of Zoe’s life that’s off-kilter, what with Mom constantly at work, Dad afraid to leave the house, and that odd boy, Wheeler Diggs, following her home from school every day. Yet when Zoe enters the annual Perform-O-Rama organ competition, she finds that life is full of surprises–and that perfection may be even better when it’s just a little off center.
pg count for the hardcover: 224
Recommended for Girls 8-11