The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

A book like this just makes me wish I were years younger! When I was a teenager, YA didn’t really exist. And really, pretty much all the books I was reading as a teenager were probably written and starring white people. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of these books I read (especially for school), were great books. I am especially grateful to one of my A-Level English lit teachers for introducing Carol Shields to me. But I hardly remember reading anything with an Asian protagonist. Or if there were Asian characters they tended to be your stereotypical nerdy Asian kids.

So to read this book by Maurene Goo, many years too old for this genre, was with a wistful, oh, if only I could have read this when I was younger. But also a eh, who cares if I’m reading this too late, I’m just glad someone out there is writing this for the young girls of today.

Clara Shin is a prankster. But she takes a prank one step too far and is suspended from school, along with, Rose, the girl she fought with.

Clara’s dad, who owns a food truck selling Korean-Brazilian food, convinces the principal to switch the suspension to having them work on the KoBra for the summer and pay off the damage they caused. And that becomes a life-changing experience for her.

First of all, I love that this book was pretty much a love letter to LA. I have been to LA a few times but I don’t really know it that well, still it was fun to read about places they go to. And while I live in the northern part of CA, where there is a pretty decent variety of food from Asia, it cannot beat LA especially when it comes to East Asian food.

And on that note, a book that features food always makes me happy. I really want to try some kimchi and cheese pasteis. I love kimchi (although I’ve not eaten it with cheese!) and we eat Korean food regularly but I’ve never had Korean-Brazilian food before.

Clara wasn’t easy to like at first. She comes off initially as really immature but as the story progresses, she grows into herself and I really liked being on this journey with her and her friends.

I’m excited to read the rest of Maurene Goo’s books. And whee, she’s got a new one out!

This is my read for East Asian MC for AsianLitBingo

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#AsianLitBingo – The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by FC Yee

 

The Journey to the West made-in-China TV series was quite a big part of my childhood in 1980s Singapore.

The acting was very overly dramatic as Chinese TV series in that period (maybe it still is today – I haven’t watched any new ones), the make-up and special effects horrendous (although probably quite good for its time), and probably just really cheesy. But as a kid, I lapped it all up. I can’t be entirely sure but this may have been a Sunday showing. And on Sunday evenings we could be found at my paternal grandparents’ house, where the cousins and aunts and uncles all gathered. The adults would eat at the big dinner table, the kids would grab our dishes and eat on the front patio. Then we would all watch TV. My grandparents didn’t speak much English, in fact my grandmother didn’t really speak Mandarin and instead spoke a Chinese dialect called Hokkien, which I didn’t really speak. But I think we all would sit down together to watch Journey to the West and all the other Chinese TV shows that would be screened on Sunday evenings.

And that’s where I learnt about Sun Wukong (the monkey king), Zhu Bajie (part-human part-pig), Tang Sanzang (the monk), and Sha Wujing (an exiled Imperial Guard) as they traveled to obtain… ok I have no idea what the journey is about, I just remember that they always got into some trouble with yaoguai (demons) and there would be fighting and whatnot.

So it was an absolute delight for me when I learnt that this legend was incorporated into this YA book.

Eugenia “Genie” Lo is just one hell of a feisty character:

“What you get from me is jack and squat, regardless of whether or not you understand. Ming bai le ma, dickhead?”

She’s a 16-year-old Chinese-American who learns that she’s the reincarnation of the Ruyi Jingu Bang, the magical staff wielded by Sun Wukong, the Monkey King.

Yes somehow a staff has become a human. Crazy, fun, but so is this book.

And it turns out that Quentin, the new kid in school, is Sun Wukong, the Monkey King.

That however means nothing to Genie.

“You’re Chinese and you don’t know me?” he sputtered. “That’s like an American child not knowing Batman!”

“You’re Chinese Batman?”

“No! I’m stronger than Batman, and more important, like — like. Tian na, how do you not know who I am?”

I love how Yee has blended this Chinese legend with American high school life. It’s charming, just hilarious, and such a rolling good time of a read. Also there are demons.

 

I read this for Asian Lit Bingo – SFF with Asian MC.

See the rest of my TBR list here

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces


The first book I finished, though officially I started it on the last day of 2016, was quite a read. It was a book I didn’t quite know that I needed to read, until I read it. Don’t you just love when that happens?

I like how it opens, and how in this first journal entry that we read, Quintero sets the scene for the book.

 

July 24
My mother named me Gabriela, after my grandmother who, coincidentally, didn’t want to meet me when I was born because my mother was unmarried, and therefore living in sin. My mom has told me the story many, many, MANY, times of how, when she confessed to my grandmother that she was pregnant with me, her mother beat her. BEAT HER! She was twenty-five. That story is the basis of my sexual education and has reiterated why it’s important to wait until you’re married to give it up. So now, every time I go out with a guy, my mom says, “Ojos abiertos, piernas cerradas.” Eyes open, legs closed. That’s as far as the birds and the bees talk has gone. And I don’t mind it. I don’t necessarily agree with that whole wait until you’re married crap, though. I mean, this is America and the 21st century; not Mexico one hundred years ago. But, of course, I can’t tell my mom that because she will think I’m bad. Or worse: trying to be White.

 

Quintero pretty much establishes what the issues that drives her novel, especially Gabi’s struggles to be a modern Mexican-American young woman, in what is more of a patriarchal culture.

Among the very many things that happens in this book are:

– date rape

– teenaged pregnancy

– a gay teen coming out

– drug addiction

and some other things that I probably shouldn’t point out because spoilers.

But, I don’t know, it’s a lot. I don’t mean to say that this all couldn’t be happening to a group of friends and their families out there. I’m not an American teenager, maybe this is all more common than I imagine. When I was Gabi’s age, I was in school in Singapore, where uniforms are required, shoes had to be white, long hair on girls had to be tied up, boys’ hair couldn’t touch the collars etc. It just seems like it was far more innocent times then (obviously I feel like I am too old for this book….! Why couldn’t it have been written and published when I was an actual teenager?).

I adored Gabi’s growing into her own creativity, learning to write poetry, expressing her emotions in what she writes, and her letters to her father made me tear up.

But that cover. Can we talk about that cover? Having read the book now, I understand where the cover art is coming from but if I had randomly come across this book on the shelves of a bookstore or a library, I would never have picked it up.

I loved Gabi. I wrote in my Litsy review that I just wished I could give her a hug! She’s fierce, independent, strong-willed, smart and funny. And I love her honesty, her vulnerability, her strong bonds with her friends and family. What a great read this was. Why didn’t I read it earlier when everyone was saying it, just read it!

Read more reviews from:

Reading the End

Aarti

WOCreads

 

 

 

Gossamer by Lois Lowry

gossamer

 

Oh! A sweet enchanting book that will enthrall the young and the not-so-young-but-still-loving-books-for-the-young like me. Although I wonder if I had read this book as a kid, would I have appreciated the little ways that Lowry has with her characters? I’m not sure.

This short book, just 144 pages, tells of dreams and nightmares and its givers. Littlest is an apprentice dream-giver. What is she?, she wonders, not a human, not an animal. She learns from the more senior one, learning to touch objects around her person’s house, gathering the fragments, the memories that are imbued into these items, and bestowing these dreams onto the woman.

The woman – elderly, dog-lover, childless – begins to foster an abused boy who has uneasy dreams, whose presence in the house attracts those who give nightmares, the Sinisteed. Littlest and her teacher must help him and his caregiver overcome these nightmares, face their past and figure out what they mean to each other.

Gossamer is a whimsical little story, a tale full of heart, one that treads between fantasy and reality.

I read it while my own littler boy slept in the stroller, unwilling to nap in the bed that afternoon, crying and crying until I gave up and picked him up. It was a cold afternoon, the light was fading, and I seemed to be the only one walking around the estate that day. Kindle in gloved hand, I pushed the stroller around and around as he slept and dreamt on.