Published by Margaret K. McElderry on May 13th, 2014
Genres: historical, young adult
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When Lily was three, her mother put her up for adoption, then disappeared without a trace. Or so Lily was told. Lily grew up in her new family and tried to forget her past. But with the Korean War raging and fear of “commies” everywhere, Lily’s Asian heritage makes her a target. She is sick of the racism she faces, a fact her adoptive parents won’t take seriously. For Lily, war is everywhere—the dinner table, the halls at school, and especially within her own skin.
Then her brainy little brother, Ralph, finds a box hidden in the attic. In it are a baffling jumble of broken antiques—clues to her past left by her “Gone Mom.” Lily and Ralph attempt to match these fragments with rare Chinese artifacts at the art museum. She encounters the artistic genius Elliot James, who attracts and infuriates Lily as he tries to draw out the beauty of her golden heritage. Will Lily summon the courage to confront her own remarkable creation story? The real story, and one she can know only by coming face-to-face with the truth long buried within the people she thought she knew best.
I was so excited to read this novel – the cover is beyond gorgeous and the description was way too tempting. Thanks to Kara, I have found a certain fondness for Asian fiction.
This one did not meet my expectations at all, and it was the main character that caused book to sour.
Assassination by Characters. Being critical of an adoption situation is always sticky. Not everyone’s experience is going to be the same, and different personality types are better equipped to handle such a stressful and confusing event. I can’t say that I relate with the feeling of being left behind at a young age. However, I can understand and point out when someone is acting like a hateful brat.
Lillian’s bitterness and hateful attitude doesn’t seem to have a valid excuse to take out her insecurities on everyone. It is very uncomfortable to read through a story with the main character digging her claws into everyone who comes in contact with her and her sour attitude. Are some of the people horrible in this novel? Certainly! The racism the main characters has to endure is disgusting, and it is painful to see her deal with it without the intervention or concern of adults. I wanted to throttle the teachers in the novel. But give credit when credit is due, and some of Lillian’s issue is how she deals with others. Coming across as nasty to a well-meaning little brother and people that face the same battle you do says quite a bit about your character. Taking the opportunity to act like a victim at every chance undermines the morality of the reader and the characters.
While Lillian’s adoptive parents were out of touch and neglectful of her struggle, Lillian seemed to turn her focus on details that really had nothing to do with the same issue. Yes, your parents should have stepped in and listened to her. But attacking them because they decided to adopt you, or they treasure their family history doesn’t make you the wounded hero, it makes you come across as spiteful. Choose your battles, and choose the ones that matter. Keep on them about helping you with school, don’t pick he same meaningless fight over and over! Have a family adopt you, or stay in an orphanage where attention is sparse and privacy and kindness are hard to find!
The love interest should be called a disinterest. Flat, unrealistic and really contributing very little to the progression of the story did nothing to warm over my already waning attention span.
The rest. The story was compelling and it was interesting to see a historical novel with the time span more modern than ancient. Like Muslims today, different races and ethnicity have faced their own battles in American history. Delving into the spiritual and cultural sections of Chinese heritage seemed to save the novel. Barely.
What could have been a very interesting and rallying story was overshadowed with the bitter taste of the hostility and unwarranted mood of the main character. The plot twist was predictable, the romance was bland, and the only saving grace of the book, the moral dictation, the janitor and the little brother, couldn’t save this mess of a novel from spoiling.