A Chinese girl and an Apache boy find comradeship in 1860s Arizona Territory.
Yip Yee, or Yipee, a young Chinese girl posing as a boy, has been let go from her job as a ranch hand in Sacramento. As she prepares to leave for Arizona in hopes of employment, her boss warns her of the murderous Apaches (but not the white cowboys and criminals who would be a threat to Yip Yee as a lone Chinese traveler). In alternating chapters readers meet Na-tio, a young Apache who longs to become a warrior. On a raid he is shocked to witness a very brutal scene of revenge, shifting his view of his father and uncle forever. (The act of Anglo violence that incited this is not depicted, nor is a later one that kills his mother.) Conflicted, Na-tio decides to steal a horse to show his father he is not weak. It is on this journey that he crosses paths with Yip Yee and throws in his lot with her. Though Na-tio has an opportunity to go back to his tribe, he chooses to stay with Yip Yee, and romance ensues. The story strains credulity. Aside from the fantasy the author creates of a Chinese girl trekking through dangerous settler territory, it is unfathomable that Na-tio would abandon his tribe to run off with a stranger, especially after his mother’s murder. In a particularly troubling moment, the resolution depends on Na-tio’s gesture to adopt a white child and “do better” than his father. An author’s note and a Q-and-A in the backmatter give insight into the author’s process, but her attempt to complicate what she calls the “Wild West” ultimately fails.
Loose ends, displaced character motivation, and adherence to old assumptions make this one to skip. (Historical fiction. 12-16)