A Vietnamese-Australian teen grapples with her family expectations.
Sixteen-year-old Vân Uoc, a child of Vietnamese refugees, is the perfect daughter and student. As a scholarship student in private school, she is under immense pressure to earn straight A’s, play the oboe, and participate in her school’s community life. During a creative-writing master class, she makes an offhanded wish that Billy, a popular white boy, would like her. Her wish becomes a reality when he suddenly pays attention to her. Although Vân Uoc is initially suspicious of Billy’s wish-fueled intentions, she allows herself to date him—but she’ll never know for sure. Wood’s attempt to walk in a Vietnamese-Aussie teen’s shoes feels removed, as if she’s translating. Vân Uoc’s character comes across as simultaneously self-loathing and indifferent even when she is supposed to be angry or sad. While Vân Uoc respectfully uses "Bác" to address her father's boss, her failure to extend the use of honorifics to other adults in her neighborhood may stand out for Asian-American readers. Some characters, such as privileged Billy and “lesbian-in-waiting” best friend Jess, seem to exist merely as elements on a hidden diversity checklist. Vân Uoc’s struggle to reconcile her parents’ wishes and her passion for art is a tired conflict, especially for Asian characters. [Note: this review has been revised from the one originally published to reflect changes made to the book since the printing of the advance review copy.]
Misguided. (Fiction. 13-17)