Why I bought it? It was September's read for my book club, and I downloaded it onto my Kindle.
Synopsis: Kimberly Chang is a brilliant student, but, when she and her mother arrive in New York City from China, she can only speak her 5th grade English--i.e. not much--and her mother speaks none. Beginning 6th grade is a challenge to say the least. They live in an apartment in a condemned building (lots of companionable roaches and rats and no heat)--arranged by her mother's sister. (With family like her who needs enemies?) They work in the sweatshop of the aforementioned loving sister and her husband and survive as best they can. I don't want to give any more away, because this story is lovely to discover as you read. If you want a bit more, you can go to Jean Kwok's synopsis on youtube.
What I thought? I loved this book. The writing is beautifully wrought--amazing for anyone but especially someone who's first language was not English. What an incredible debut novel. It is vivid like nobody's business. There is such authenticity to it that sometimes it feels like memoir (and at times perhaps it was a bit. Kwok did experience some of the same things when she moved to NYC from China.) I was completely transported. I cried and laughed, mourned and rejoiced along with Kim. The way Kwok deals with Kim's fragmented understanding of English (at first) is so well done that it brought back my own experience learning French. I'm in awe of Kwok's writing. Awe, I tell you.
My Rating:****1/2 out of 5, It was almost a 5, but there were a few things that held it back. Still a fabulous read.
Cleanness Score: 4 out of 10, for some mild language, some incidental drug use, and a not over done sex scene. This is a book intended for adults, but I think most older teens would be fine reading it.