The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim – Perhaps The Best Book About Mental Illness, Asian Identity, and Family That I’ve Read – Ever

The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim. 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:

Anna Chiu has her hands pretty full looking after her brother and sister and helping out at her dad’s restaurant, all while her mum stays in bed. Dad’s new delivery boy, Rory, is a welcome distraction and even though she knows that things aren’t right at home, she’s starting to feel like she could just be a normal teen.

But when Mum finally gets out of bed, things go from bad to worse. And as Mum’s condition worsens, Anna and her family question everything they understand about themselves and each other.

CW’s review:

I received an ARC of the book from the publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book.

Take note of this review’s title: The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim is one of the best books that explore mental illness that I have ever read – ever. Take note, because I absolutely mean it and I think everyone should read this book. The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling follows Hong Kong-Chinese-Australian teen Anna, who spends a lot of her time wrangling her younger siblings and making sure they are ready for school, helping at her father’s Chinese restaurant, and trying to be a teenager herself while her mother who stays in bed for weeks at a time. Don’t be fooled by this book’s bright and soft cover – though The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling has its sweet moments about teenagehood and first love, it also has some confronting and candid explorations of mental illness within Asian communities and its impact on family.

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Color Outside the Lines edited by Sangu Mandanna – An Anthology About Interracial Relationships; A Heartfelt Celebration of the Diversity of Love

TEXT: Color Outside the Lines: Stories about Love, edited by Sangu Mandanna. Hands of different skin tones holding each other frame the image. Bottom right corner: Xiaolong the pink axolotl with an upside down flower hat at the center of a stamp, with the text "Review by CW, The Quiet Pond" around it.
Summary:

This modern, groundbreaking YA anthology explores the complexity and beauty of interracial and LGBTQ+ relationships where differences are front and center.

When people ask me what this anthology is about, I’m often tempted to give them the complicated answer: it’s about race, and about how being different from the person you love can matter but how it can also not matter, and it’s about Chinese pirate ghosts, black girl vigilantes, colonial India, a flower festival, a garden of poisons, and so, so much else. Honestly, though? I think the answer’s much simpler than that. Color outside the Lines is a collection of stories about young, fierce, brilliantly hopeful people in love.—Sangu Mandanna, editor of Color outside the Lines

CW’s review:

A few years ago, I talked about how I craved a good story about interracial relationships beyond a superficial portrayal. I wanted a story that examined the ups and downs of being in an interracial relationship, to illustrate the complexities and the challenges and the dynamics and the unexpected joys and challenges of being in an interracial relationship. Such a book would have held my whole heart with its words, as I craved to see my experiences of being in an interracial relationship depicted in a story. Thus, when I saw that Eric Smith, one of the contributing authors to the anthology, announced that Sangu Mandanna was editing the Color Outside the Lines anthology, I was over the moon; I was thrilled beyond words.

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The Dragon Warrior by Katie Zhao – A Love Letter to Diasporic and Immigrant Kids; A Fun Adventure about Dragons, Warriors, and Courage

The Dragon Warrior by Katie Zhao. Image: A brown-skin girl with short hair, holds up a golden staff. 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:

As a member of the Jade Society, twelve-year-old Faryn Liu dreams of honoring her family and the gods by becoming a warrior. But the Society has shunned Faryn and her brother Alex ever since their father disappeared years ago, forcing them to train in secret.

Then, during an errand into San Francisco, Faryn stumbles into a battle with a demon–and helps defeat it. She just might be the fabled Heaven Breaker, a powerful warrior meant to work for the all-mighty deity, the Jade Emperor, by commanding an army of dragons to defeat the demons. That is, if she can prove her worth and find the island of the immortals before the Lunar New Year.

With Alex and other unlikely allies at her side, Faryn sets off on a daring quest across Chinatowns. But becoming the Heaven Breaker will require more sacrifices than she first realized . . . What will Faryn be willing to give up to claim her destiny?

CW’s review:

Listen: I am the sort of reader that likes to withhold judgement of a book within the first few chapters of a book, let alone the first few pages. However, when you read the dedication of The Dragon Warrior and find that it is dedicated to immigrants, children of immigrants, and diaspora kids everywhere? The diasporic child within me that imagined vivid sweeping stories about dragons and wielding magic powers as some foretold magic warrior will undoubtedly rise up, excited, rearing to go on an adventure.

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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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Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno – A Wonderful Contemporary About Family, Diasporic Latinx Identity, and Life

Don't Date Rosa Santos, Nina Moreno

Blurb:

Rosa Santos is cursed by the sea-at least, that’s what they say. Dating her is bad news, especially if you’re a boy with a boat.

But Rosa feels more caught than cursed. Caught between cultures and choices. Between her abuela, a beloved healer and pillar of their community, and her mother, an artist who crashes in and out of her life like a hurricane. Between Port Coral, the quirky South Florida town they call home, and Cuba, the island her abuela refuses to talk about.

As her college decision looms, Rosa collides – literally – with Alex Aquino, the mysterious boy with tattoos of the ocean whose family owns the marina. With her heart, her family, and her future on the line, can Rosa break a curse and find her place beyond the horizon?

CW’s review:

A few months ago when Don’t Date Rosa Santos was released, a few wonderful Latinx book bloggers organised for people in the book community to post a photo of themselves wearing yellow to celebrate the release of Don’t Date Rosa Santos. (Yellow is one of my favourite colours to wear, so naturally I was more than excited to participate!) And I think that sort of thing perfectly encapsulates the story in Don’t Date Rosa Santos: communities coming together to do something great and celebrating all things yellow – sun, summer, and sunny people. Read More »