Being the only Asian student in town makes the horrible but universal feeling of not fitting in just that much worse.
Chloe Cho can only hope seventh grade promises improvement because there is an actual Korean-American teacher for social studies. This smart and sassy girl is determined to get Ms. Lee to help fill in the gaps of her Korean ancestry, since her parents so clearly avoid the topic. With her best friend, Shelley, Chloe dives into all things Korean: pop music, clothing, and food. After a slow start, the storyline takes a hard turn in the middle of the book. When the startling, barely believable truth about her family (hint: it takes the notion of alienation to a whole new level) is finally revealed, the Asian stereotypes start falling away fast: the star student gets detention, she loses her position as first-chair violinist in the orchestra, and (gasp!) she fights with her parents. Even worse, Chloe and Shelley walk away from their friendship. The significant plot twist has this book straddling multiple genres, but the new vein is where the humor and weirdness truly have teeth. The similarities between being different and being alien make for a powerful message. And the strongest protection against both is still your very best friend.
With its quirky, determined heroine, this is a good choice to add diversity to the shelves. (Fiction. 8-12)