The title of the book made me smile, since a 'banana' was meant to describe a Chines person with a western up bringing. Yellow outside and white inside. In my country we have the 'coconuts'. It seems as though there will always be confusion and bitterness when second generation immigrants have to adapt to their country while the parents expects them to uphold their old cultures and beliefs. In our country's case it is not immigrants, but indigenous groups adopting the western lifestyle.
Xing Li is a young school kid, born in England from Hong Kong parents, whose mother dies shortly before she is heading for school. Her dad is long gone. She and her brother must move into Grandma's house where she soon discovers a life she is not used to, neither find acceptable. There is her heartless grandmother, her aunt Mei, the sad uncle Ho, the tortoise and her missing cat, Meow Meow. She also has to find her own voice among white racist learners in the prestigious school she is sent to. Her friend Jay, a Chinese Jamaican boy, becomes her mainstay and support when the prejudice and bullying become brutal. She has a lot of growing-up to do, very quickly, while the lack of support from her grandmother drives her more into her own private little world where she has to vent for herself and she is not good at it yet!
However, she learns in the end what love really means and in how many forms it manifest itself. Some are less obvious than others. She also learns that things are not always what it looks like.
PP Wong is a refreshing new voice in the British literary world. Although I have no problem with racism combined with bullying, being spotlighted, I do believe that too much repetition of the situation, weakens, instead of strengths the message as happened in the book. The same thing happens when a world music hit gets played 24/7 for as long as the listeners can stomach it, until they start contacting the radio stations and plead with them to not play it anymore. Less is always more!
For young people, particularly, this book is a must-read. It is one of those experiences that forces the reader to learn more about the people they never get to know in their communities. What a wonderful new discovery it can be to accept people different from ourselves, into our lives. Of course it counts for both immigrants and old inhabitants alike.
A great read!
For what it is worth - the book cover should be reconsidered! Phew!
A NetGally read offered for review by Legend Press. I loved the experience. Thank you.