Frankly in Love by David Yoon – More Than Just Fake-Dating; A Story About The Intersections of Family, Identity, and Love

David Yoon. Frankly in Love. A badge at the bottom-left that says, 'Reviewed by CW, The Quiet Pond'. In the centre is a image of Xiaolong, the pink axolotl wearing a flower hat, waving at you.
Blurb:

High school senior Frank Li is a Limbo–his term for Korean-American kids who find themselves caught between their parents’ traditional expectations and their own Southern California upbringing. His parents have one rule when it comes to romance–“Date Korean”–which proves complicated when Frank falls for Brit Means, who is smart, beautiful–and white. Fellow Limbo Joy Song is in a similar predicament, and so they make a pact: they’ll pretend to date each other in order to gain their freedom. Frank thinks it’s the perfect plan, but in the end, Frank and Joy’s fake-dating maneuver leaves him wondering if he ever really understood love–or himself–at all.

CW’s review:

Thank you to Penguin NZ for providing me an ARC in exchange for a review; this does not affect my opinions of the book.

Frankly in Love is not at all what I expected – and in retrospect, I am perfectly okay with that. In fact, I’m glad. Frankly in Love by David Yoon follows Korean-American teen Frank, whose strict and traditional Korean parents prohibit him from dating a non-Korean girl. So when he falls hard and fast for Britt Means, who is pointedly not Korean, Frank devises a scheme with his childhood (and Korean) friend, Joy, to pretend to date to allude their parents’ judgement – only to fall for each other in the process.

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Front Desk by Kelly Yang – A Compassionate & Empowering Story About The Immigrant Experience, Poverty, and Community

Front Desk [by Kelly Yang]

Blurb:

Mia Tang has a lot of secrets.

Number 1: She lives in a motel, not a big house. Every day, while her immigrant parents clean the rooms, ten-year-old Mia manages the front desk of the Calivista Motel and tends to its guests.

Number 2: Her parents hide immigrants. And if the mean motel owner, Mr. Yao, finds out they’ve been letting them stay in the empty rooms for free, the Tangs will be doomed.

Number 3: She wants to be a writer. But how can she when her mom thinks she should stick to math because English is not her first language?

It will take all of Mia’s courage, kindness, and hard work to get through this year. Will she be able to hold on to her job, help the immigrants and guests, escape Mr. Yao, and go for her dreams?

CW’s review:

A few pages into Front Desk by Kelly Yang, I thought to myself, I’m falling in love with this book. Unsurprisingly, Front Desk became not only one of my effortless favourites back in 2018, but it became one of my favourite books ever – more than deserving, I felt, to be in my ‘forever in my heart’ shelf in Goodreads. Front Desk may be a middle-grade novel, but don’t be fooled – it has a light and compassionate narrative but also delves into tough topics that children and adults alike can learn from.

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Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai – An Unexpected, Emotional, and Charming Middle Grade About Family, Immigrating, Grief, and CAKE!

Text: pie in the sky by remy lai. image: a shorter asian boy with a short buzzcut holds a pie to his mouth, about to eat it. a taller boy with longer hair, looks at him at the corner of his eye.

This time when you visit the Pond, the air smells… sweet? You follow your nose, and find Xiaolong by an… an oven? (You’re sure it wasn’t there before!)

XL pieinsky 1.pngWhen you call out to her, she turns around holding a bowl in one hand and whisking vigorously with her other.

“Hello friend!” she greets. “I just read this amazing book, which included a recipe! Isn’t that amazing? So I decided to bake this cake for you so we had afternoon tea while we talked about it, but it’s taking a big longer than I thought.”

When you offer to help her, she magics you an apron – just so you won’t get your clothes all dirty! You follow her instructions – you sift the flour, you add the water, you crack the eggs over, and she even lets you add the colouring too!

An illustration of a rainbow cake on a plate.After the cake is done, you wait next to the oven, both you and Xiaolong giddy and excited for the cake to be finished. When the cake is finally done, Xiaolong magics it out of the oven – so none of you will get burnt! – and she gives you a slice.

“Well, now that we all have some food to eat,” says Xiaolong, helping herself to a slice as well, “let me tell you about an amazing book that I read, friend. It’s called Pie in the Sky…”

Blurb:

When eleven-year-old Jingwen moves to a new country, he feels like he’s landed on Mars. School is torture, making friends is impossible since he doesn’t speak English, and he’s often stuck looking after his (extremely irritating) little brother, Yanghao.

To distract himself from the loneliness, Jingwen daydreams about making all the cakes on the menu of Pie in the Sky, the bakery his father had planned to open before he unexpectedly passed away. The only problem is his mother has laid down one major rule: the brothers are not to use the oven while she’s at work. As Jingwen and Yanghao bake elaborate cakes, they’ll have to cook up elaborate excuses to keep the cake making a secret from Mama.

CW’s review:

I received a review copy from the author. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

When I discovered Pie in the Sky by chance and listed it as one of the books I was most excited to read in 2019, I had no idea – no idea – that I was about to read one of my favourite books ever. I say this with absolute honesty and with my whole heart: I thank all the stars in the sky, the fabric of the universe, and the chaos of life for aligning and allowing me to cross paths with Remy, the author of Pie in the Sky, who gave me an advanced reader’s copy of her incredible quiet book.

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A River of Stars by Vanessa Hua – On Reading the Right Book at the Right Time

Text: A River of Stars by Vanessa Hua.
Blurb:

Holed up with other mothers-to-be in a secret maternity home in Los Angeles, Scarlett Chen is far from her native China, where she worked in a factory and fell in love with the married owner, Boss Yeung. Now she’s carrying his baby. To ensure that his child—his first son—has every advantage, Boss Yeung has shipped Scarlett off to give birth on American soil. As Scarlett awaits the baby’s arrival, she spars with her imperious housemates. The only one who fits in even less is Daisy, a spirited, pregnant teenager who is being kept apart from her American boyfriend.

Then a new sonogram of Scarlett’s baby reveals the unexpected. Panicked, she goes on the run by hijacking a van—only to discover that she has a stowaway: Daisy, who intends to track down the father of her child. The two flee to San Francisco’s bustling Chinatown, where Scarlett will join countless immigrants desperately trying to seize their piece of the American dream. What Scarlett doesn’t know is that her baby’s father is not far behind her.

Joce’s review:

As a new mother and a first-generation Chinese immigrant living in the United States, I knew A River of Stars would strike a chord, but I could not have prepared myself for how deeply. I met Scarlett and Daisy, our two main characters, when they were pregnant. They suddenly go on the lam, desperately trying to piece together a full life for themselves and their babies. As they both have very little to no family in the USA, they create a found family, and I am honored to have witnessed it as a reader.

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