The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling

Scholastic Audio. Nov. 2020. 803p. Audio $27.99. ISBN 9781338691825.
Gr 9 Up–Anna Chiu longs for a normal life. Most of her childhood and teen years have been spent navigating her mother’s moods. Long stretches where Ma doesn’t get out of bed are punctuated by bouts of happiness, but also times when she gets incredibly angry and paranoid. Anna takes care of her siblings while her father spends almost all of his time at their family’s restaurant. When her father needs help, Anna steps in to work in the kitchen. Instead of dragging her down further, this added responsibility allows her to reconnect with her father and get close to their new delivery driver, Rory. For the first time in a while, life feels normal—until her mother has a public breakdown sending her mom to the hospital for psychiatric care. Each member of the family navigates the initial treatment and eventual relapse differently. Anna leans heavily on Rory, who is still working with a therapist after an attempted suicide a few years ago. Anna’s parents are immigrants from Hong Kong and their culture and beliefs are interwoven throughout, as well as experiences with racism and microaggressions. Mental illness is a major theme in this novel, but so are sibling and parental relationships and first love. Narrator Christina Ho brings Anna’s inner and outer conflict vividly to life while doing the same for her family and Rory. She expertly blends the Cantonese words (which are then translated to English) into the narration.
VERDICT The surprising power of this novel will connect with readers who seek romantic stories that also bring in some difficult realities of life.

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