Overly repetitive, unpolished writing somehow doesn't prevent effective characterization in this tale of a 14-year-old Vietnamese boy in Hartford, Connecticut.
Minh and his Ba (father) fled Vietnam in 1980. Their American life in the projects is noisy and dangerous, with racism, xenophobia, drugs, and guns all around them. Minh's favorite time of day is the silent early morning, when he rides his bike through the streets on his paper route. He dreams of being a superhero, "Minh Man" or "Little Dragon," a combination of comic-book hero and his beloved Bruce Lee. Minh spends most of his time outdoors, walking and biking freely with his two best friends, until one moves away and the other begins selling drugs. The only adult Minh feels he can talk to–an old man on his paper route–dies, leaving Minh even more isolated. The mother and brother he barely remembers soon arrive from Vietnam, causing increasing emotional confusion and discomfort. Photographic memory tosses him into the difficult position of possessing key evidence in a drug-related double-homicide, and the ensuing fame makes him uneasy–not like a superhero after all. An inappropriate nostalgia (the story is told in adult flashback) distances the narration from younger readers.
Despite an egregious typographical error (the murder-solving license plate Minh reports to the police is different on different pages) and a writing style that plods along with tiresome repetition and no immediacy, Minh somehow emerges as a character to care about, a boy who may just find the inner strength to overcome his odds. (YA)