Two Filipino sisters living with their mean stepmother discover hope in unexpected places.
Kelly (Blackbird Fly, 2015) returns to southern Louisiana in her second book. Twelve-year-old Sol has no family left except for her youngest sister, Ming. Soon after they immigrated to a small Louisiana town, their father returned to the Philippines, abandoning the sisters with their unhappy stepmother, Vea. Sol imagines herself and Ming as princesses fighting an evil dragon in order to endure their stepmother’s verbal and physical abuse, their subsidized apartment building becoming a fairy-tale tower. She and her best friend, Manny, befriend a white girl from the other side of town, and Sol begins to rely less on her stories while Ming desperately holds on. When Ming announces that an aunt will save the sisters from their evil stepmother, Sol can’t bear to tell Ming that the aunt doesn’t exist. Always the strong older sister, she desperately searches for a solution before her heated relationship with Vea explodes. Kelly deftly captures the tumultuous emotions of a preteen who is forced to grow up faster than other girls her age. The book focuses mostly on Sol’s inner struggles, however, and it lacks the momentum to turn its quiet characters into a full-blown tale that effectively handles the class and race issues that it touches upon.
A promising story that doesn’t quite find its footing. (Fiction. 10-14)