Yang, Kelly. Private Label. Katherine Tegen Books, 2022. ISBN 978-0062941107 416 pp. $17.99
Serene, the daughter of a fashion mogul and intern at her mother’s fashion house, is being groomed to take over the business, much to the displeasure of her mother’s senior designers. Lily Lu has terminal pancreatic cancer, and it’s always been her and har daughter against the world, and the white-bred California suburb where they live.
Lian is a new immigrant from China who faces micro-aggressions and outright bullying at their high school. He starts an afterschool club for students interested in learning Chinese, and Serene joins in the hopes it can aid her in connecting with her estranged father. Although Serene has a boyfriend, she begins to fall for Lian, who becomes her rock when things are rapidly going south.
Both Serene and Lian are coping with what their mothers want for them–and the gap between that, and what they want for themselves. Racism and sexism meld with fashion and Chinese culture to produce a novel with a lot of depth. The alternating point of views work well; the teen voices are authentic and unique. The cover art is lovely. The cancer details are all too real. This is a well-written and timely tale about the immigrant experience that will both tug at your heartstrings and have you cheering for the characters.
I received an advance reader’s review copy of #PrivateLabel via #NetGalley.
Thao, Dustin. You’ve Reached Sam. Wednesday Books, 2021. ISBN 978-1250762030 340 pp. $18.99
On the precipice of graduation, Julie and Sam can’t wait to go away to college, get an apartment, and live the rest of their lives together. But Sam dies in a tragic accident, leaving Julie behind to cope with her grief and guilt–they had a disagreement before he died. Julie skips the funeral, school, and throws away every memento, and then, in a moment of anguish, calls his cell phone number. Sam ANSWERS.
The universe either magically gives Julie and Sam a way to say goodbye and find the closure they need… OR she is delusional in her grief and created the world she needs to live in to get through. It’s never explained, but it doesn’t matter; I believed that JULIE thought she was connecting, and it was what she needed to move on.
On the surface, Julie comes across as selfish, but the truth is, she’s just a young girl who lost her first love and boyfriend of three years. The path of grieving is different for everyone, and that has to be respected. There are friends (and sadly, teachers!) who don’t seem to understand this.
Something about the characters and their relationship didn’t quite resonate with me. It might be due to the distance;l we only see Sam through Julie’s eyes. Their intimacy is assumed but never really divulged. The epilogue is short sweet and frankly, unnecessary: a young adult novel should end with a sense of a new beginning, even if there is closure around a plot point or character’s development.
I received an advance reader’s review copy of #YouveReachedSam via #NetGalley.