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FICTION

Parachutes

HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. May 2020. 496p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780062941084.
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Gr 9 Up–Dani, of Filipino descent and a scholarship student at a prestigious private school in Southern California, hopes to win a debate scholarship to Yale. To bring in some extra income, her mom rents out their spare room to an exchange student, Claire, one of many uber-wealthy students from China attending Dani’s school. Although they live together, they have very different experiences at school. Through her part-time job as a house cleaner, Dani discovers how many of her classmates use their wealth to facilitate cheating and pay for opportunities she cannot access. Yang deftly weaves in parallels to recent real-life events, such as the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal and the Duke University email urging Chinese students to speak English. On top of these explorations of nationality and wealth is the realistically pervasive look at rape culture, from creepy host families and catcalling to a teacher sexually harassing a student and an actual rape. In short alternating chapters narrated by Dani and Claire, Yang creates a delicate balance between these heavier issues and the lighter moments of high school. The story seamlessly explores several difficult topics without veering into “issue-book” territory. The real feat comes at the end when Yang strikes a hopeful and powerful tone, despite the school’s disappointing response to reports of sexual violence.
VERDICT This is a powerful exploration of race, class, and power through multiple lenses, the most powerful being sexual harassment and rape. An engrossing read that will spark discussions on a wide range of issues.

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