Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What I'm Reading Now: The Great Wall of Lucy Wu

Made me laugh? Yup.

Made me cry? Yup.

Made me want to use the words "Judy Blume" in this review? Yup.

Sixth-grader Lucy Wu is obsessed with basketball and hopes to play for legendary UT Lady Vols coach Pat Summit one day. But that's a long ways off. For now, she's short, being forced to go to Chinese school, and in an extended battle with mean girl Sloane---who puts crickets in Lucy's lemon chicken. To top it off, she has to share her bedroom with her non-English speaking, Vapor Rub odor-emitting, suddenly visiting great-aunt, Yi Po.

This novel is about walls: at first, the one Lucy erects in her bedroom to keep her great-aunt at arm's length. But later, there's the one in Lucy's school bathroom scrawled with a mocking poem about Chinese people; the walls between Lucy and her basketball dreams; and most of all, the walls inside that we all use to keep other people out...

What I loved most about this book---and what caused me to invoke the name of Judy Blume---is how debut author Wendy Shang keeps Lucy firmly grounded in her family, but gives us complete access to her inner life. Here is Lucy explaining what sharing a room with her great-aunt is like:

"Yi Po woke up every day before the sun even peeped out. And did she tiptoe out quietly? Not without making the bed! I lay in bed and listened to her every morning, walking around in her flat slippers that made a fwap-fwap sound with every step. I soon noticed that she had a little pattern every morning. Whoosh fwap-fwap. She pulled up the blankets. Swish fwap-fwap. She smoothed the bed. Poom fwap-fwap. She puffed up the pillow.
By the time she fwap-fwapped out of the room, I was too fwapping mad to go back to sleep."

No walls there.

Cross-posted on Goodreads.

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