Although she doesn’t identify as Chinese, Julia, an 11-year-old girl adopted from China, is sent to sleepaway camp for a week to bond with the two other girls who were adopted from the same orphanage at the same time.
There are two interconnected plots in Cavanaugh’s third novel directed at middle-grade girls (Always, Abigail, 2014, etc.); one concerns Julia’s acceptance of her heritage and feelings about being adopted, the other involves a camp competition that forces Julia and her at-war bunkmates to work together and eventually develop a liking for one another. After stirring up some initial interest, the story goes through a didactic and dull stretch as the camp competition and its subsequent life lessons pile up. Near the end, however, the story shifts again, gaining gravitas and becoming incredibly moving. Julia starts to come to terms with the sea of repressed emotions that surrounds her adoption, and her bunkmates, who have their own secrets and vulnerabilities, acknowledge and share them as well. The campers are differentiated well enough for readers to remember who’s who, but except for narrator Julia and her bunkmate Gina, a foster child who pretends that everything is a joke, they don’t have much in the way of shading or soul.
Tame tale redeemed by a touching ending. (Fiction. 9-13)