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Asian American Literature Fans – Young Adult Fiction Spotlight – May 10, 2016

Asian American Literature Fans – Young Adult Fiction Spotlight – May 10, 2016

May 10, 2016

This spotlight contains reviews of: Cindy Pon’s Serpentine (Month9Books, 2015);  Linda Sue Park’s Forest of Wonders (HarperCollins, 2016); Erin Entrada Kelly’s Land of Forgotten Girls (Greenwillow Books, 2016); Heidi Heilig’s The Girl From Everywhere (Greenwillow Books 2016); Julie Kagawa’s Rogue (Harlequin Teen, 2015); Julia Kagawa’s The Iron Warrior (Harlequin Teen, 2015); Mariko Tamaki’s Saving Montgomery Sole (Roaring Book Press, 2016); Rebecca Lim’s Afterlight (Text Publishing Company, 2016).



May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. As part of my acknowledgement of this month, I am attempting to amass 31 reviews, so my rate would come out on average to a review a day in the month of May. Counting this post, I will be up to 13 reviews (if I have completed my addition properly). We’ll see if I’m able to complete this challenge, but as part of this initiative, I’m hoping that my efforts might be matched in some way by you: so if you’re a reader and lurker of AALF, I am encouraging you to make your own post or respond to one of the reviews. Would it be too much to ask for 31 comments and/or posts by readers and others? Probably, but the gauntlet has been thrown. LJ is open access, so you can create your own profile or you can post anonymously. I kindly encourage you to comment just to acknowledge your participation in AALF’s readership.

As an update, I have received my FIRST comment from a reader. Big shout out from Ming over at Goodreads for taking the time to let us know that we’re not calling out into the darkness.

Me = 13 posts, Reading Community = 1 comment. This stat is not as compelling to me. LOL

For more on APA Heritage Month, go here:

http://asianpacificheritage.gov/

*****

This post focuses on young adult fictions penned by Asian North American/ Asian Anglophone writers. Many of you have noticed how many young adult fictions I end up reviewing. This interest isn’t part of some article or book project; I find young adult fictions to be a form of “comfort food” reading, so I naturally gravitate to them when I simply want to decompress a little bit.

A Review of Cindy Pon’s Serpentine (Month9Books, 2015)




Cindy Pon’s follow-up to the Phoenix series is Serpentine (Month9Books, 2015), which is apparently set in the same fictionalized word. But before I get to the review, I wanted to provide you with a link to this press:

http://www.month9books.com/

As per usual, we’ll let B&N handle some of our plot summarizing for us: “Inspired by the rich history of Chinese mythology, this sweeping fantasy is set in the ancient Kingdom of Xia and tells the coming of age story of Skybright, a young girl who worries about her growing otherness. As she turns 16, Skybright notices troubling changes. By day, she is a companion and handmaid to the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family. But nighttime brings with it a darkness that not even daybreak can quell. When her plight can no longer be denied, Skybright learns that despite a dark destiny, she must struggle to retain her sense of self – even as she falls in love for the first time.” So, it’s sort of hard to review this novel without revealing a major plot point concerning the title: Skybright was orphaned as a young child and brought to the house of a wealthy family to become the handmaiden of the daughter named Zhen Nhi. What Skybright doesn’t realize is that she’s part demon serpent. When she happens to come of age (in this case, we’re referring to her menstrual cycle), this moment coincides with accidental transformations into her serpent form. At first she’s obviously confused by what’s going on, but a chance meeting with a mysterious man named Stone reveals that her mother was a demon serpent named Opal who used her powers of transformation to seduce and kill men. Naturally, Skybright is frightened, especially after she develops strong feelings for a monk-in-training named Kai Sen, who has been tasked with helping seal the rift between the mortal world and the underworld. Kai Sen also happens to be someone who has to vanquish demons, so their romance already becomes coded as star-crossed. Another major problem appears with Zhen Nhi. Zhen Nhi eventually develops feelings for another young teenage girl named Lan; when Zhen Nhi’s mother discovers this same sex romance, she banishes Lan from Zhen Nhi’s life. Zhen Nhi is naturally devastated, but ultimately decides to run away in order to make sure she can see Lan again. Thus, Pon is invested in twining together two narratives of what are essentially “queer” forms of romance. Intriguingly, though Zhen Nhi and Skybright are very close friends, Skybright cannot bring herself to tell Zhen Nhi about her transformations and how they might be impacting her love for Kai Sen. The latter half of the book brings all the major characters together, as Zhen Nhi goes missing during her quest to find Lan. The crucial concluding arc suggests that Skybright cannot find a way to handle both her mortal and demon identities, thus suggesting the impossibility of this kind of hybridity, but I’m sure Pon has more in store for us, as there is already a sequel in the works. I found this novel compelling for a lot of reasons, the primary of which is the twinned queer-ish romance plots, and how squarely Pon engages the challenge of the “coming out” narrative. In this particular fictional world, the cross-species love affair between a half human/ demon and a monk comes off as perhaps more deviant than the same sex love affair between two female teenagers. Certainly, a work that can be used in a teaching capacity, Serpentine is the kind of young adult paranormal romance Y/A that would pair well with others such as Malinda Lo’s Ash and Huntress. The one minor quibble I had with this book was based upon production issues; sometimes the words on the page were justified too closely together, and I also found the margin area to be too small. I’m always thinking about note-taking and other such things when I read books and hope that Month9 considers these elements in the sequel!  Otherwise, a must read for fans of the paranormal romance/ young adult genre.

Buy the Book Here:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/serpentine-cindy-pon/1121684149

A Review of Linda Sue Park’s Forest of Wonders (HarperCollins, 2016).




It’s been awhile since I’ve read anything by Linda Sue Park, so I figured it would be a good time to catch up with her latest offering, which is the young adult novel Forest of Wonders. Forest of Wonders is the first in what will likely be a trilogy, the second of which is tentatively titled Cavern of Secrets. As per routine, we’ll let B&N give us the editorial description: “Raffa Santana has always loved the mysterious Forest of Wonders. For a gifted young apothecary like him, every leaf could unleash a kind of magic. When an injured bat crashes into his life, Raffa invents a cure from a rare crimson vine that he finds deep in the Forest. His remedy saves the animal but also transforms it into something much more than an ordinary bat, with far-reaching consequences. Raffa’s experiments lead him away from home to the forbidding city of Gilden, where troubling discoveries make him question whether exciting botanical inventions—including his own—might actually threaten the very creatures of the Forest he wants to protect.” The plot summary is light on the details of the other characters. Raffa has a relative named Garith, who is sort of a rival apothecary. Both are young and want to prove themselves in the field. Their parental guardians are careful to steer them in a particular direction. Raffa’s parents don’t want their work as apothecaries diverted toward Gilden. Garith’s family, on the other hand, wants to move to Gilden, a large city that will be opening up a major research center that will be employed to help generate more potions and magical elixirs that will no doubt be important for the cosmopolitan center. Early on the in the novel, Raffa and Garith experiment with a magical vine, which proves to save a dying bat, but with consequences. The bat revives, but is suddenly able to speak in a human language. Raffa’s parents realize both the power and the danger of such a magical vine, and they suggest he keep the news of this vine to himself. The second part of the novel turns to another adventure: Raffa eventually finds his way to Gilden, wanting to find out more about the city and what it may offer. Along the way, he teams up with Trixin and Kuma; through hook and crook, they manage to get into the city and all the way up into its royal center. The New York Times Book Review makes an interesting case for reading the novel as an inverted Aesop’s fable: “It is a fantasy novel, yes, but it is also a provocative moral tale about the relationship between humans and animals. An Aesop's fable turned inside out…In the end, the ambiguity of the message is one of the novel's strengths. In a genre that often paints good and evil in black and white, Park has written a book with a lot of gray. And green. There's a forest, after all. I look forward to further exploring the Forest of Wonders, and to meeting more talking animals.” I certainly agree with this perspective, but the moral tale moves beyond the relationship between humans and animals. Park’s work seems to be a microcosmic rendering of capitalism and the ways that human beings harness anyone to create more profit under the guise of efficiency and technological progress. Certainly, the novel is about biopower and the need to figure out the proper ethical framework when humans are tasked with handling items that can be deployed in a variety of dynamic and potentially deleterious ways. What’s interesting is of course how to read the ethnic and racial registers of this particular work: Park employs stylized language and dialogue to suggest we’re in some sort of dialect, but I can’t figure out quite what to do with these kinds of linguistic peculiarities. Indeed, dialogue functions in entertaining but nonstandard syntaxes, which imply that Park wants to move this work not only into fantasy registers, but also a location and place in which social difference functions as well.


Buy the Book Here:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/forest-of-wonders-linda-sue-park/1122087958?ean=9780062327383


A Review of Erin Entrada Kelly’s Land of Forgotten Girls (Greenwillow Books, 2016).




Well, Erin Entrada Kelly’s Land of Forgotten Girls continues to signal to me that we’ve got another amazing middle grade writer of Asian American fiction. Kelly’s work reminds me so much of Kadohata, especially in her most outstanding works such as Kira-Kira, Weedflower, and Outside Beauty. Land of Forgotten Girls is told from the first person perspective of Soledad, a young Filipino girl, who comes of age in the shadow of the death of her younger sister. The plot summary from Library Journal will do us some work here: “Soledad and Ming, two sisters from the Philippines, live in Louisiana with their evil stepmother, Vea. All Sol and Ming have is each other and their stories. Both girls inherited a lively imagination from their mother, Mei-Mei. When she was alive, Mei-Mei wove enthralling tales about her magical sister, Jove, who traveled around the world. The girls cling to tales of Auntie Jove as a hope of escape while living in a dreary apartment with miserable Vea. Sol worries for her younger sister as Ming begins to believe Auntie Jove is a reality, blurring the lines between fact and fiction. Can Sol save her sister from the depression caused by her own stories, or have they done irreparable damage? Is there a way for Sol, Ming, and Vea to understand one another and be happy in their own reality?” Soledad and Ming’s father left them in the care of Vea, and because Vea is not happy living in the United States while her husband father remains in the Philippines (presumably to work), the two sisters must rely on each other in order to find friends and comfort each other during difficult times. Ming, in particular, is convinced that Auntie Jove is going to come to take her away from Vea, but Sol knows that this wish is just a fantasy. Sol attempts to wrest Ming away from these idealizations by trying to do something for her; with her neighborhood friends who together go on trips to the local garbage dump, she begins to hatch a plan that will lift Ming’s spirits. The middle grade novel is often quietly heartbreaking precisely because Kelly is able to balance sentimentality with realism. We know that the sisters are in a serious predicament, and Kelly doesn’t offer them any easy solutions, which makes any triumph that comes their way seem especially poignant. One of the highlights is the alternative kinship that the sisters create with their almost mute neighbor Ms. Yeung. And Kelly’s ace in the hole is certainly the rag tag group of neighborhood kids that come together to provide a community, however ephemeral, that Sol and Ming can call a kind of home away from home.

Buy the Book Here:

https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062238641/the-land-of-forgotten-girls


A Review of Heidi Heilig’s The Girl From Everywhere (Greenwillow Books 2016).



So, this book is one of the first publications in 2016 I had the chance to read, and it is certainly one of the more ambitious YA paranormal fictions that I’ve encountered. We’ll let Goodreads take over the summarizing duties this time around: “Sixteen-year-old Nix Song is a time-traveller. She, her father and their crew of time refugees travel the world aboard The Temptation, a glorious pirate ship stuffed with treasures both typical and mythical. Old maps allow Nix and her father to navigate not just to distant lands, but distant times - although a map will only take you somewhere once. And Nix's father is only interested in one time, and one place: Honolulu 1868. A time before Nix was born, and her mother was alive. Something that puts Nix's existence rather dangerously in question...Nix has grown used to her father's obsession, but only because she's convinced it can't work. But then a map falls into her father's lap that changes everything. And when Nix refuses to help, her father threatens to maroon Kashmir, her only friend (and perhaps, only love) in a time where Nix will never be able to find him. And if Nix has learned one thing, it's that losing the person you love is a torment that no one can withstand. Nix must work out what she wants, who she is, and where she really belongs before time runs out on her forever.” What the description doesn’t tell you is that maps aren’t always accurate, and it matters when the map was produced and what the mapmaker was actually trying to map. So, maps can actually fail if they’re not authentic. For some reason, I thought that the time that Nix’s father Captain Slate was actually interested in was 1866, which would have been a time before Nix was born, and therefore her mother would still be alive, but who knows, I have been known to get simple plot details wrong. In any case, Nix’s father is able to get a map that gets him back to Honolulu at what he thinks will be the proper time, but it isn’t. Instead, it’s sort of a ploy to get him to a time in which individuals will sell him yet another map that will then bring him to the time he would actually like to return to. Nix is obviously skeptical, and the ransom they expect for that map is excessively costly because it will require Captain Slate and his crew to raid a heavily guarded Hawaiian treasury. Nix feels as though her life and her shipmates’ lives are secondary to Captain Slate’s melancholia. Thus, she feels as though she has to follow through on his plan, but of course, she has other ideas that would eventually free her from this endless quest. For instance, she certainly dreams of navigating time-traveling ships of her own, using maps that would take her to faraway places without the Captain. Heilig throws in a lot of other elements to complicate the plot. The requisite romance conundrum emerges when Nix develops a flirtation with a young artist and budding cartographer. But Heilig’s real spade in this novel is the question of the individual quest over a larger social problem: why is Slate so interested in saving his paramour’s life when a whole kingdom’s future is in question? Indeed, Slate is invested in changing the timeline for himself, while completely forgetting about the fact that imperial designs on Hawaii will ultimately lead to the kingdom’s downfall, so there is a larger question about the ethics around time travel that makes Heilig’s work far more textured than you might have expected from a young adult fiction. The novel is apparently part of a larger series, so we’ll see where the series will move from here, but given the Nix’s ability to work with maps, we know that Heilig has a lot of options and will very much continue to embody her moniker as the “girl from everywhere.”

Buy the Book:
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-girl-from-everywhere-heidi-heilig/1121996229

A Review of Julie Kagawa’s Rogue (Harlequin Teen, 2015).




I needed to take my mind off some of the more challenging professional elements in my life, and my solution is often to read young adult fiction (with that paranormal romance element). I’d been “saving” Julie Kagawa’s Rogue for some time, letting it sit on my shelf until I wanted something on the frothier side. Rogue is the second installment in Kagawa’s dragon series (so I’ll let you know that there will be spoilers forthcoming), which focuses on a group of rotating narrators. Ember Hill, a female hatchling who is in training to become a deadly Viper—this term is used for a dragon tasked with killing other dragons who have attempted to escape the organization known as Talon—is our ostensible protagonist and readerly emotional center. There’s Riley, also known as Cobalt, who is the seasoned “rogue” dragon, who has been attempting to free young hatchlings from Talon. He’s been working as a subversice for about twelve years, a fact made apparent in Kagawa’s choice to engage anachronic narrative practices to provide us with some exposition concerning Riley’s movement into his status as a rogue. There’s Garret, the human soldier who works for the Order of St. George, the super secret organization looking to wipe out dragons from the face of the earth. At the conclusion of the first book—and here is another spoiler warning—Garret failed to kill Ember, letting her go. At a different point, Ember also has a chance to kill Garret but does not do so. They go their separate ways. The problem is of course Garret had a chance to kill Ember, meaning that he failed in his duty, a fact that evidences his inability to believe in the Order’s central mission. Thus Garret is to be executed. Ember, realizing that time is running out, manages to convince Riley and Riley’s human partner-in-crime and technology expert, Wes, that they have to break Garret out. This mission looks to be dangerous, but they go about doing it anyway, with the force of Ember’s will making itself known. Of course, Riley is carrying a torch for Ember, so we know that he’ll do what she says to keep her happy. Once Garret is out, Riley, Wes, Ember, and Garret need to go into hiding. Where else to go but Las Vegas? So, they head to Las Vegas, hole up in a hotel, while Riley goes about following up on a lead that there may be two hatchlings in the area that are in trouble. Over at Talon, trouble is also brewing in a different form. Ember’s twin brother Dante is looking to secure his position within the organization: the only way to assure his loyalty is to find Ember and bring her back to Talon. Thus, he is enlisted by those in the highest reaches of power to retrieve Ember; he is given support in the form of other hatchling recruits and aims to find a way to ensnare his twin sister. These storylines eventually converge, and the rest of the novel is a mad dash of chases and fight scenes. Though there’s certainly enough action and mayhem, there’s something less compelling about this narrative than Kagawa’s previous works. Nevertheless, I very much appreciated Kagawa’s choice to expand her stylistic wings by engaging multiple narrators. The problem here is that these internal monologues often sound similar to each other, thus creating the sense that these psychic consciousnessness are really one and the same. Perhaps, this shortcoming is the one I sensed while reading the work. I still will of course read the next installment, which will likely conclude the series, and which is provisionally entitled Soldier. In the meantime, the Iron Fey series continues with The Traitor Son that came out in October.

Buy the Book Here:

http://www.amazon.com/Rogue-Talon-Saga-Julie-Kagawa/dp/037321216X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1462852883&sr=8-1&keywords=julie+kagawa+rogue

A Review of Julia Kagawa’s The Iron Warrior (Harlequin Teen, 2015).




For those of you who have been invested in the Iron Fey series since it started seven installments ago, it seems as though The Iron Warrior definitively concludes this epic narrative. The Iron Warrior is long awaited; its release seems to have been delayed at various points, as Kagawa has been juggling three different storyworlds at the same time: the Blood of Eden series (Vampires), the Talon series (Dragons), and the aforementioned Iron Fey series (Fairies). In any case, we can’t help but wonder where Kagawa will go after The Talon series ends in the final book (which should be coming out sometime this year or early next). But back to the Fairies: Kagawa more or less makes her intentions known to close the book on the Chase family and their adventures in fairyland in her author’s note. As many of you are aware of, the last installment left us in a terrible cliffhanger. Ethan Chase seems to have died, and Keirran, the mixed blood elf and offspring of the Iron Queen (Meghan Chase) and her prince consort Ash, fulfills his prophecy, which would allow the Forgotten to come back to life, the First Queen to reign again, while simultaneously destroying the current power dynamics in the fairy realm (effectively disintegrating the domains of Summer and Winter Fey). Keirran no doubt has lost his soul, an effect mostly likely due to an amulet he had created in order to extend the life of his love Annwyl, who like the other Forgotten is suffering from the Fade. The cliffhanger is resolved in perhaps a kind of narrative cheat: Ethan does die, but his death is only temporary, and his resurrection means we can have the final installment. Narrated from Ethan’s first person perspective, this novel is all about his quest to find a way to save the Fey from almost virtual destruction at the hands of Keirran and the First Queen, who together command a terrible army of the Forgotten. For this quest to succeed, Ethan needs a lot of help and his band of adventurers reminds me most of a game you might have played in Dungeons & Dragons, as you move along a particular storyline and add allies who will join you in your various struggles. Ethan manages to acquire a number of these supporters, including: Kenzie, his romantic love; Kenzie’s fairy companion, Razor; Grimalkin, the cat evoking Neverland; the Thin Man, a Forgotten; even Wolf, who helps this band find a witch deep in a forest. They are able to find Annwyl there and realize that the only hope they have in defeating Keirran and the First Queen is to confront Keirran himself. Meanwhile, the fairy realms are battling each other for how to deal with Keirran without having to war with each other first. There’s quite a lot for Kagawa to deal with in terms of the power struggles here, but she is able to streamline much of the palace intrigue so to speak by focusing on Ethan’s particular plot. I have to say that given the cliffhanger of the 7th book, there was nothing that probably could have been done to satisfy my reading demands for this final book, and the narrative resolution, while certainly logical and fitting, thus becomes a little bit disappointing. Part of the challenge I think is the narrative perspective: Ethan Chase is an outsider with a heart of gold, but we never ever question his faith in good and in what might be possible, but his determination strikes sometimes as a bit too heroic, especially in light of other flawed, but no less striking narrators of these works such as the one found in Marie Lu’s The Young Elites. But, despite my personal quibbles with expectation, any faithful reader of this series will have to engage it if only to find out how the epic will end.

Buy the Book Here:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-iron-warrior-julie-kagawa/1121193298


A Review of Mariko Tamaki’s Saving Montgomery Sole (Roaring Book Press, 2016).




There’s a lot to admire about Mariko Tamaki’s Saving Montgomery Sole, which is narrated from the first person perspective of the titular Montgomery Sole. The young adult novel is part of that tradition of exploring the vast boundaries of new social formations in the genre. Here, the protagonist is raised by same sex partners, while her best friends are a mixed race Japanese Native American teen named Naoki and a queer teen named Thomas. There’s queerness, mixed race, and social difference pretty much everywhere in this text. But let’s backtrack for a second: to be honest, when I first picked up the book, I thought it might be about saving a species of fish because I think there is a fish called a sole. I guess I was entirely off the mark on that one. As per usual, we’ll let B&N provide us with some context: “Montgomery Sole is a square peg in a small town, forced to go to a school full of jocks and girls who don't even know what irony is. It would all be impossible if it weren't for her best friends, Thomas and Naoki. The three are also the only members of Jefferson High's Mystery Club, dedicated to exploring the weird and unexplained, from ESP and astrology to super powers and mysterious objects. Then there's the Eye of Know, the possibly powerful crystal amulet Monty bought online. Will it help her predict the future or fight back against the ignorant jerks who make fun of Thomas for being gay or Monty for having lesbian moms? Maybe the Eye is here just in time, because the newest resident of their small town is scarier than mothmen, poltergeists, or, you know, gym. Thoughtful, funny, and painfully honest, Montgomery Sole is someone you'll want to laugh and cry with over a big cup of frozen yogurt with extra toppings.” This summary does a good job of elucidating Monty’s interest in the paranormal; the Eye of Know provides her with a dose of power she suspects enables her to target bullies and others that she perceives are just sources of negative energy. But that desire to strike back and achieve revenge also begins to alter her character and to disturb her connections to her closest friends; this plot engagement is where the weight of the novel resides. Even though Monty is experiencing considerable trauma through various forms of social oppression at school and otherwise, she somehow must maintain a level of equanimity, while avoiding a path that resorts to violence and brutality. While this pacifistic mentality might placate some readers, I didn’t necessarily have a problem with the ways that Monty acted out: it made sense. She was being harassed, people she loved were being harassed, and she wanted to protect herself and the people she cared about. At the same time, Tamaki does throw a wrench into this kind of ethic because Monty presupposes the identities of those willing to harass her and it blinds her to the possibility that everyone may not be as mean-spirited as she thinks. This kind of nuancing is of course important, but this perspective-driven approach to the world didn’t necessarily solve the larger issue at hand concerning Monty’s constant negotiation with social forces that deem her and her family to be strange, queer, and just to out there to be part of anything mainstream, popular, or cool. In the world of high school, you can understand Monty’s pain at having to be so different. On the whole, Tamaki’s novel doesn’t necessarily stray far from the typical high school narrative, but I appreciated that she didn’t telegraph a major romance plot. Instead, she attempted to create a sense that there is a time and place for the non-normative family, even if it is under a constant barrage of normalizing impulses.

Buy the Book Here:


http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/saving-montgomery-sole-mariko-tamaki/1121270516#productInfoTabs

A Review of Rebecca Lim’s Afterlight (Text Publishing Company, 2016).


Well, I’ve been following Rebecca Lim’s publications after starting her Mercy series, which unfortunately never was completed on the United States side. For some reason, the publisher decided to halt the final installments. This experience is reminiscent of what happened with Leila Rasheed’s At Somerton series, which never had the final book come out in print form; it is only available in an electronic form. For those of you like me that appreciate the material page and the tangible product, this experience is certainly crazy-making. In any case, Rebecca Lim is widely published in her native Australia. As an Asian Australian writer, she comes from a different Anglophone literary heritage that still has yet to see much theorization at least from a stateside perspective. Lim’s Afterlight continues her tradition of creating fictional worlds that involve spirituality. In this particular work, our narrator and youthful teen narrator is Sophie Teague. The novel opens with both of her parents having been killed; she comes from a solid working class background and ends up moving in with her grandmother, who runs a bar. Her parents were part of a biker culture. Early on in the novel, Sophie realizes that she “can see dead people.” Though this kind of literary trope is hardly new, it never fails to interest me as a reader. In this case, Sophie is haunted by some sort of ghostly woman she calls Eve, who she discovers is a stripper that had gone missing. Eve seems intent on making her crazy, until Sophie starts to listen to what Eve seems to want her to do. Sophie ends up saving the life of one person after another, but these heroics end up attracting all sorts of attention, and she is eventually the subject of media publicity. Not surprisingly, this attention has both positive and negative effects. At school, people begin to wonder if Sophie is perhaps a bit different, and some regard her as a kind of witch-like figure. But Sophie’s ability to see the dead also allows her to meet the high school heartthrob named Jordan Haig, who as readers discover, is also able to see Eve. Thus,  Lim ingeniously weaves in the requisite romance plot into the paranormal young adult fiction through this kind of connection. The teenager outsider makes a key connection to a high school insider through their collective powers related to the occult. From there, Sophie begins to learn more about their powers and what they may signify, and the concluding arc sees the two team up in order to figure out what exactly their investments are in helping or ignoring those who have died. Lim’s novel also perfectly sets up readers for a sequel, and there’s enough unique worldbuilding in this book to make us thirsty for that second installment. We wonder if Sophie will be able to train in some way, so that she can master her powers with respect to the dead, but Lim’s introduction of a key character toward the conclusion (and which frame the narrative up front) make us realize that Sophie may be in for far more than she bargained for. A definite must read for fans of paranormal/ YA fictions.

Buy the Book Here:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/afterlight-rebecca-lim/1121565352

*****

AALF uses “maximal ideological inclusiveness” to define Asian American literature. Thus, we review any writers working in the English language of Asian descent. We also review titles related to Asian American contexts without regard to authorial descent. We also consider titles in translation pending their relationship to America, broadly defined. Our point is precisely to cast the widest net possible.

With apologies as always for any typographical, grammatical, or factual errors. My intent in these reviews is to illuminate the wide-ranging and expansive terrain of Asian American and Asian Anglophone literatures. Please e-mail ssohnucr@gmail.com with any concerns you may have.

AALF is maintained by a number of professional academics and scholars, including Paul Lai (pylduck@gmail.com), who is the social media liaison and expert. Current, active as well previous reviewers have included (but are not necessarily limited to):

Sue J. Kim, Professor, University of Massachusetts, Lowell
Jennifer Ann Ho, Professor, UNC-Chapel Hill
Betsy Huang, Associate Professor, Clark University

Nadeen Kharputly, PhD Candidate, UC San Diego
Annabeth Leow, Coterminal MA Student, Stanford University

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