An amiable yet insufferably class-obsessed LA teen copes with her family’s fall from wealth.
Skylar Hoffman waits tables at the same exclusive beach club she used to belong to because her parents’ incomes steadily dwindle. Her filmmaker mother, Lisa Chen, produced one teen blockbuster and hasn’t had another commercial success since; her father’s work as a graphic designer was “never that busy to begin with.” Huang spares readers the poverty porn of Skylar’s family coping with their downsized fortunes in such a wealth- and image-obsessed place as LA. Instead, she makes Skylar’s struggle with this new normal the story’s ongoing metaphor as she lies by omission and commission about her circumstances to her New England old-money classmates at tony Winthrop Academy, a boarding school near Boston, and the subsequent repercussions. In the process, Skylar, who might be mixed-race Asian-American judging by her parents’ names, also challenges the model-minority stereotypes of the financially comfortable and academically excellent Asians. However, in taking on these negative images, the author tends to not indicate characters of color except for hints in their names, like boyfriend Leo Diaz—a few noted exceptions being ambiguous physical descriptions of Skylar’s guidance counselor, Ms. Randall, and dorm mate Raksmey, along with fellow students C.J., who comes from mainland China, and Yasmin, from United Arab Emirates.
A smart look at class that's undercut by its deemphasis of race. (Fiction. 12-16)