TeenReader 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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