A school assignment to research his family tree sends Vee (named for the letter) on a journey of discovery, real and metaphorical, hilarious and moving, that’s as much about the future as the past.
Future anthropologist and basketballer-wannabe Vee knows he’s an underachiever, thanks. Unlike his best friend Madison (Miao-ling at home), Vee doesn’t conform to the Asian-nerd stereotype. (He blames his heritage: Chinese immigrant dad and tall, blonde Texan mom.) They’re great parents, but their families are a taboo topic. Life’s not all bad—managing the girls’ basketball team has a lot going for it, like gorgeous but inaccessible senior Adele. Still, frustrations mount. Obsessed with digging up his roots and stonewalled by his parents, Vee enlists Madison’s help. She can’t help it if she looks like his father’s child more than Vee does and speaks Mandarin at home. (In Vee’s family, English is the common language.) Like the rounded characters, the plot avoids cliché and oversimplification. Life is a balancing act, Vee finds, in this book that belongs on every multicultural reading list. Knowing where we come from matters, but assigning too much power to ancestry can be more limiting than illuminating.
While characters with mixed heritages are increasingly visible in teen literature, their experience in a rapidly shifting cultural landscape is seldom explored in depth. This first-rate debut does exactly that. (Fiction. 12 & up)