105 Ways to Give a Book

TeenReader Tuesday: The Great Wall of Lucy Wu

Yup, I’m trying to pin TeenReader down to setting aside one day a week to grace us with her presence. Give her some love, and we may make this happen.

The Great Wall of Lucy WuTeenReader popping in to talk about The Great Wall of Lucy Wu, by Wendy Wan-Long Shang. We’ve all been through this scenario: Things are lining up to be awesome and then they decide that going well isn’t in the cards. With her sister leaving for college, Lucy will finally have her own room and is ready for a great year with her best friend and basketball. That is, until she finds that her grandmother’s sister, Yi Po, is coming to visit. For a few months. And staying in her room. Throw in Chinese school, mean girls, and a blossoming crush to make for a challenging sixth grade year.

I liked this book most of all because it is realistic. Now I know there’s that whole “realistic fiction” genre, but this book proves that it takes more than not slaying dragons to make a character realistic. Lucy and her sister get angry at each other and fight, but the result is a torn quilt — not hurled emotional grenades. Lucy’s parents are adamant about Chinese school, but do work with Lucy’s basketball practice schedule, even though they don’t understand her attachment to the sport. With Lucy’s life feeling unfair, it would be easy to exaggerate the injustice, but this story made Lucy’s complaints seem legitimate while allowing the reader to also understand the other point of view. The book also nicely incorporates cultural aspects without taking a teaching or preaching tone. Every reference makes sense in the context of the story and flows naturally.

Lucy undergoes a gradual, and again realistic, character development in her relationship with Yi Po. While she starts their relationship by literally creating a wall between them with her furniture, the wall comes down as they each reach a better understanding of the other. Lucy is angry with Yi Po, and embarrassed by her presence. But her embarrassment has less to do with her great-aunt and more to do with the self-consciousness of being a tween. And she comes to see that her anger also has less to do with Yi Po than with a sorrow that they both share — the loss of Lucy’s grandmother and Yi Po’s sister. Overall, this book captured the reality of change and relationships flawlessly and deserves my highest recommendation for its excellent writing and story.

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13 comments:

tanita davis said...

Yay, TeenReader!

I think I saw this book marketed to book bloggers as a trending topic, because of the whole Tiger Mother thing awhile back. This sounds nothing like having really hardcore Mom and fighting all the time! Fortunately, it sounds way better!

Abby said...

Great review!
I loved this book, and it's always nice to get an actual teen opinion!

madelyn said...

Great review, Teen Reader!! I'm glad we'll be hearing from you more! (And Tanita, when you go to Amazon, they are pairing the books, as a people who bought X also bought Y. Definitely not a Tiger Mother situation, though!)

jama said...

LOVE this book and your awesome review. *chants* Teen Reader! Teen Reader! More please!

Dianne said...

I love this review, too. Go, Teen Reader! More reviews, please.:-)

tanita davis said...

(Madelyn - I think they wanted to pair Bitter Melon by Cara Chow with the Tiger Mother thing -- I definitely have to ignore Amazon's suggestions more frequently!!!)

Deb said...

Much love for this book, too. Sharing with the b/c kids tomorrow! Thanks for your thoughts!

MotherReader said...

I was extremely impressed by this book myself. That's pretty much why I gave it to TR who is picky about her realistic fiction. The character development and incorporation of culture were both very well done.

One thing that stuck with me was at the end of the book (not a spoiler) that the parents let Lucy keep playing basketball because they think it helps her leadership skills. She says, "I wish it was enough that I love to play, but I'll take it." What a true conclusion to this aspect of the story! Her parents didn't come to this sudden understanding, but yet you feel a bending in their relationship. The parents and kid are coming from different cultural mindsets, and this brings it home that they both need to learn to understand the other.

I see the tiniest Tiger Mother connection there in the Asian mindset that she describes of doing things towards the greatest achievement while the American mindset is doing things for the greatest happiness. But in this book it's a subtle chord, and helpful for understanding the character and the culture.

WendyS said...

Thanks for the review, TeenReader! Look forward to seeing more reviews from you.

sally apokedak said...

wow, TeenReader, you are a wonderful writer and reviewer. I love these. I really want to read this book now, and it's not even my genre.

Terry Doherty said...

Great review ... and great parental insight ("perfect for a picky reader.")

I have seen but not read this one. Your point about writing scenarios so that all sides have a voice resonates with me and will be why I seek it out.

Bravo! Keep 'em coming TeenReader.

Jen Robinson said...

Thanks, Teen Reader. You made me want to read this book. I especially liked: "but this book proves that it takes more than not slaying dragons to make a character realistic." and "The book also nicely incorporates cultural aspects without taking a teaching or preaching tone. Every reference makes sense in the context of the story and flows naturally." I'm a fan of well-done books for this particular age range (that cusp of adolescence, facing changes), and I've added this one to my list. Thanks, Teen Reader!

Jennifer Schultz said...

Great job, Teen Reader. I loved The Great Wall of Lucy Wu. Did you know that the author lives in northern Virginia? She even thanks the Fairfax Public librarians in her acknowledgments.