This Place Is Still Beautiful

HarperAudio. Jun. 2022. 1,015p. $27.99. ISBN 9780063086050.
Gr 9 Up–“People label [Annalie] pretty. People label [Margaret] exotic.” And yet the two are both daughters of their Chinese immigrant mother and runaway white father. Annalie is often assumed to be white, Margaret is regularly “mistaken for full-blooded Chinese.” High school senior-to-be Annalie still lives at home; Margaret, two years older, has finally gotten out to NYC. But when hateful graffiti defaces their garage, Annalie calls Margaret back to (again) figure things out. That fateful summer will either break or bind the troubled family. Katharine Chin’s Annalie is airy, uncertain, longing to be liked; Chin stumbles with London visitor Daniel’s unconvincing British English. Deeper-voiced Cindy Kay captures Margaret’s projected maturity, with which she emotionally shields herself; Kay also subtly reveals unexpected vulnerable moments with those Margaret (reluctantly) loves most.
VERDICT Chin and Kay ensure an auspicious aural debut for debut novelist Tian’s outstanding small-town exposé.

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