With Twice the Love, Dessie Mei

HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. May 2024. 336p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780063306523.
Gr 3-7–On her first day at her new school in Seattle, 11-year-old Dessie meets a girl named Donna who not only looks exactly like her, but shares the same birthday. They were also adopted from the same orphanage in China; Dessie by a white family, and Donna by a Taiwanese-American one. A secret DNA test reveals the shocking truth that they are actually twins, but Donna’s grandmother Amah disapproves of outspoken Dessie and forbids their relationship. Feeling distant from her adoptive family, and ignorant of her biological family and culture, Dessie struggles to understand who she is and where she belongs. But when Amah is the victim of an anti-Asian hate crime, Dessie finds that the values she has learned from her adoptive family, especially her activist Granny, can help build a community where everyone belongs. Rich with emotional and cultural details, and complex characters, this novel is a poignant portrayal of an adoptive family’s struggle to navigate issues of identity and belonging. Dessie loves her parents but is frustrated that they don’t really understand her need to learn more about her roots, while worrying that they will regret adopting her. Set against the backdrop of a wave of anti-Asian hate crimes, the book captures the conflict Dessie’s family faces between keeping their daughter safe, and allowing her speak out against discrimination and bigotry.
VERDICT This moving novel carries a powerful message about the meaning of family and the importance of community. Highly recommended for all collections.

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