Private Label

HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. May 2022. 416p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062941107.
Gr 9 Up–Yang’s novel packs a punch with family ties, romance, identity, and fashion in a story that will hook readers from page one. Serene Li is queen-bee popular, and she is dating white surfer bro Cameron. Lian Chen is a polar opposite: recently arrived to California with his family from Beijing, and is a social pariah in their mostly white school. Serene’s mom is a renowned fashion designer who goes by Lily Lee, and as Serene learns the ropes of the industry, she dreams of designing success, too. Lian’s oppressive and overbearing mother hounds him to get good grades and attend an Ivy League school, though he hopes to one day do stand-up comedy, which he pursues in secret. The two meet when Lian starts a Chinese Club in their school and Serene is the only person who signs up. Although they come from different worlds, they have more in common than they think. As Serene’s mom battles an unexpected cancer diagnosis, and Lian’s catches him in a web of lies, the teens will have to face their greatest fears: losing their mothers. Yang is a phenomenal writer, and the story flows in alternating POV chapters. Though some of the book’s issues resolve rather simply, the exploration of identity is very well written and discussed. One can’t help but root for the main characters as they explore the world around them, their emerging sense of self, and the feelings they have for each other.
VERDICT A first purchase for all high school collections.

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