The day after Hằng arrives in Texas from a refugee camp, she heads toward Amarillo to find her little brother.
On that same day in 1981, an 18-year-old aspiring cowboy named LeeRoy is traveling to Amarillo to pursue his rodeo dreams. After some helpful meddling from a couple at a rest stop, LeeRoy finds himself driving Hằng on her search instead. They make an odd pair, a white boy from Austin and a determined Vietnamese refugee on a mission. But their chemistry works: Hằng sees through LeeRoy’s cowboy airs, and LeeRoy understands Hằng’s clever English pronunciations, cobbled together from Vietnamese syllables. When they find Hằng’s brother and he remembers nothing about Vietnam, Hằng and LeeRoy settle in at the ranch next door. Hằng’s heartbreaking memories of the day her brother was mistakenly taken by Americans at the end of the war, her harrowing journey to America, and the family she left behind are all tempered by LeeRoy’s quiet patience and exasperated affection. It is their warm and comic love/hate relationship, developing over the course of the summer into something more, that is the soul of award-winning Lai’s (Listen, Slowly, 2015, etc.) first young adult novel. Every sentence is infused with warmth, and Lai shows readers that countless moments of grace exist even in the darkest times.
Masterfully conjures grace, beauty, and humor out of the tragic wake of the Vietnam War. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 13-18)