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Dear Thursday: GIRL IN TRANSLATION by Jean Kwok [Book 29 of 2010]

So if you saw me IRL in August, you already know that I was just obsessed with GIRL IN TRANSLATION by Jean Kwok. What a great way to end the summer.

Why I Decided To Read It: Last spring it seemed like everybody was talking about this book, and it felt like I kept running into mentions of it everywhere I went online. So I decided to download the audiobook and see what all the fuss was about.

What It’s About: A Chinese girl moves with her mother to New York in 1997 after the Hong Kong handover. They are then put to work by her miserable aunt in her uncle’s horrible sweatshop.

What Makes It Different: I’ve never read a novel from the perspective of the daughter of a sweatshop worker. For me at least, this was a whole new POV.

What I Loved: Since I was actually in Beijing during the Hong Kong handover, I found it particularly fascinating to think about someone coming to the States at the same time. I loved the main character, Kimberly, and felt very inspired by her spunk and can-do.

What I Didn’t Like: I can’t discuss it without spoilers. So read the book, then we can talk about it. Suffice it say, it’s nothing so major that it would make me not recommend the book as a whole.

Writing Lessons Learned:

Embrace American values. What’s interesting is this felt story more American than most novels I read, in that the main character is chasing after the American dream of money and prestige, using sheer grit, hard work, and intelligence to achieve her goals. It made me cheer for Kimberly from the beginning because she’s so emblematic of a core American value.

Make your obstacles bigger. The main concern of this story is overcoming obstacles, and the obstacles that Kwok throws at her main character are worthy ones. What’s interesting is that these obstacles only get bigger and bigger as the story progresses with Kwok saving the biggest one for the end.

Think about how your characters think about boys. Since I have a character that regards men in a different way in my next book, I really, really, really loved the non-traditional way Kimberly thought about boys. She doesn’t sweat them and regards them as interchangeable, except for the few boys that she thinks are special. Four of these guys pop up throughout the book and they couldn’t be anymore different. Sorry to be so vague, but I really don’t want to ruin anything for you.

To Whom Would I Recommend This Book: Americans, High School Seniors, Anyone Who Needs To Get Inspired To Do Something Great.

Click on the cover pic to buy the book!