Pregnancy, adoption and parenting decisions past and present link—and haunt—a Chinese-Canadian adoptee, her now-pregnant former friend and the biological father-to-be.
Cherished only child of professional parents, Faye conforms outwardly to model-minority expectations, but she hides her grief and the need to process the gulf between her Chinese birth mother’s options and her own. This intensifies when Bev asks Faye to help her interview prospective adoptive parents. Bev’s fractured family is useless. She’s at odds with her long-divorced parents, estranged from half siblings, and grieving a loss that taking risks and impulsive behavior can’t assuage. Father-to-be Mannie, the most damaged, struggles to rise to the occasion, but his father’s abandonment and bipolar mother’s institutionalization leave him short of role models. Grim yes, but the three are smart and good company, though so caustic that reading can feel like chugging a bottle of expensive vinegar—best appreciated in small doses. Still, authentic teen characters, closely observed settings and a moving plot do not a YA novel make. These protagonists have little room to act. Choices adults made in the past largely determine the course they set and drastically limit the choices they wrestle with now. Though teens have far less freedom of choice in life than in literature written for them, YA fiction by definition places the reins in their hands.
A superb novel from a rising Canadian literary star, best for adult and mature crossover readers. (Fiction. 14 & up)