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Great Call of China (S.A.S.S.) Paperback – February 19, 2009

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About the Author

Cynthea Liu lives in Chicago, Illinois.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Title Page


Copyright Page



Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

... Climbing to the top of the world...

“Are you ready?” Kallyn shouldered a small backpack and popped open her umbrella.

Cece looked up at the Wall. “Yeah, I’m ready.”

Kallyn and Cece steadily made the climb.

The steps became much steeper, and the path narrowed. Higher and higher they climbed, the gap between them and the rest of the students widening. Cece caught her breath and looked up, unable to see where the stairs ended.

“Just think how good you’ll feel when we make it to the top, Cece,” Kallyn said.

Just how good will it feel when I get to the top? Cece thought. By far, this was one of the hardest things she had ever done. If she could climb to the highest point of this section of the Great Wall, she could do anything. Tomorrow’s trip to the orphanage would seem like nothing.

“We’re almost there,” Kallyn said.

Cece looked up again. She could do this. She had to do this.

Finally, Cece was only steps from the last tower. She had just five steps left. Four. . . Her body filled with anticipation. Three . . . two . . .

She took the last step, and relief washed over her. Cece looked all around her. She felt like she was literally on top of the world.


I wish to acknowledge my rockstar agent Jen, my tireless and smarty editor
Karen, and my critique partner Tam, otherwise known as America’s Next Top
Model. A special thanks goes to my big brother William, my Xi’an connection
and resident expert. Oh, yeah. And he’s good looking, too.


Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3
(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd)
Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia
(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)
Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi - 110 017, India
Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand
(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196,
South Africa
Registered Offices: Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Published by Speak, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2008

Copyright © Cynthea Liu, 2009

All rights reserved

eISBN : 978-1-101-01989-4

The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any
responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.

For my daughter Clara. Live strong.

Application for the Students Across the Seven Seas
Study Abroad Program

Chapter One

Cece and Alison flipped through a pile of jeans at Macy’s. Cece was looking for a pair to replace her worn-out boot-cuts. She needed something new and fresh for her trip to China.

Alison held up a pair. “Size four, right?”

“Perfect,” Cece said, taking the jeans. It was the last item on her list, and the mall would be closed soon. “I’ll try these on and then we’ll be done.”

Cece headed for the fitting rooms with Alison trailing behind. “I can’t believe you’re leaving me tomorrow,” Al said. “How am I going to survive the summer without you?”

Cece walked into an open fitting room and closed the door while Al waited outside. “Beats me.” Cece hung up the jeans and her purse. “I guess you and Eugene Derkle will have to keep each other company.” She grinned, then tugged off her skirt and put on the jeans. She was thrilled to spend a summer without Eugene, her manager at Six Flags. He was the kind of guy you caught picking his nose. Like all the time.

“Don’t remind me,” Alison said. “His knee socks will be the end of me. Are you sure you have to go?”

Cece zipped up the jeans and observed herself in the mirror. Not bad. The slim cut made her look even taller. “Yes, I’m sure. The S.A.S.S. anthropology program is great. I’m really excited about it.” That, and there was no way she was going to suffer another tourist season in Texas, stuffed inside a hot toll booth. She turned and looked over her shoulder to check the rear view. The jeans made her butt look round, perky even. Excellent.

“What about your mother?” Alison’s voice filled with hope. “Is she having second thoughts? Maybe canceled your plane tickets?”

“Ha, you wish.” Cece turned and checked the front again. “But I do think she wants to plant a tracking device under my skin before I go. Do you know how many times she’s told me to be sure to e-mail? To not forget my calling card? Blah, blah, blah. . . ”

Lately, Mom’s smothering problem had gotten worse, as if that was even possible. It wasn’t like Cece was going to be gone forever. It was just one summer, halfway around the globe. No big deal.

“You know why she’s worried, right?” Al’s voice got low. “It’s not like she doesn’t know about your special plans.”

Cece opened the door.

Al was leaning against the wall. “Hey, those jeans look awesome.”

Cece pulled her in and shut the door. “Wait a second. How do you know she knows?”

Al frowned. “Please. Don’t all moms figure out stuff like that? She’s got to have some idea you’re not going to China just to traipse around ancient ruins and study fossils.”


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Series: S.A.S.S.
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Speak; First Paperback Edition edition (February 19, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142411345
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142411346
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #437,133 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Cynthea Liu spent most of her formative years in Oklahoma and Texas where she was a member of the Whiz Quiz team, an academic decathlon-er, and a spelling bee champion. Yes, she was very popular.

After attending college on the East Coast, she landed a job as a management consultant. When she had enough of PowerPoint and frequent flyer miles, she traded in her suit for sweats to focus on the fun stuff-writing for children.

Cynthea is represented by the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, which consistently ranks #1 in juvenile sales by Publishers Marketplace. Cynthea's works include contemporary picture books, easy readers, chapter books, middle grade, and YA novels. She loves to write about spunky characters in humorous situations.

Her middle-grade novel, PARIS PAN TAKES THE DARE with G.P. Putnam's Sons, was a Scholastic Book Club selection, an APALA selection, and an Oklahoma Book Award finalist. PARIS PAN is also available in Germany (Baumhaus). Her YA novel, THE GREAT CALL OF CHINA for Puffin's S.A.S.S.bestselling series, was a NoveList Grab N' Go selection and an APALA selection. Her latest book, WOOBY & PEEP, a humorous picture book was published by Sterling in 2013. Her newest book, a humorous picture book titled BIKE ON, BEAR! was just released by Simon & Schuster. Cynthea also has forthcoming titles from Disney Press, and she is a contributor to THE NEW WRITER'S HANDBOOK, Volume 2, A Practical Anthology of Best Advice for Your Craft and Career, edited by Philip Martin.

Based in Chicago, Cynthea has spoken to a number of schools in Illinois and across the country. She has also been a guest speaker for national conferences organized by the American Library Association, American Association of School Librarians, Association for Library Services to Children, and the Young Adult Library Services Association, among others. Locally and regionally, Cynthea has also spoken for the Illinois School Media Library Association, the Illinois Reading Council, the Illinois State Board of Education, and the Chicago Teacher-Librarians Association. Cynthea is also a frequent guest author for local family literacy nights and young author conferences.

She is also a writing coach and faculty member for both local and national conferences associated with the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, as well as universities and colleges. She has been featured on ABC's Chicago 7 and the Chicago Sun Times.

To learn more about Cynthea and her books, please visit her author website at http://www.cynthealiu.com.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By ARS on March 6, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
How refreshing! A teen novel where everyone isn't obsessed with clothing brands and sex! In the Great Call of China, the main character, Cece, who's an adopted teen, has more important things to focus on. She wants to learn more about her heritage, maybe even find her birth parents! Reading Cynthea Liu's enthusiastic depiction of Chinese culture, as well as the intersection of Chinese and American cultures, made me want to hop on a plane tomorrow. I especially liked reading about the Terra Cotta Warriors in Xi'an. Liu's secondary characters in the book deserve a shout-out; my favorite was Jessica, a Chinese-American who struggles to follow her own dreams instead of her parents' demands. Great read for teens and girls who think there's more to life than Juicy Couture and losing their virginity. A YA novel with real substance.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By D. Avery on March 1, 2009
Format: Paperback
I thoroughly enjoyed this book from cover to cover. I've had the chance to live in China for a time and visit many of the places Cece travels to, and I found the story to be very accurate and vividly described. Cece and her friends are well-rounded characters who are smart and interesting -- very refreshing when compared to many of the mean-spirited or gossip-oriented books available today. I intend to give this book as gifts to friends with 11- to 14-year-old daughters.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Joel B. Kirk on July 29, 2013
Format: Paperback
A good book can be enjoyed by anyone of any age. People of different ethnicities and ages enjoyed Harry Potter; I wasn't one of those people, however. While TGCC was very possibly marketed to teenage girls, Cynthea Liu's book appeals to those interested in Asian/Asian American culture, Chinese culture, romance, or even Asian American romance.

The story is about a Chinese-American girl named Cece Charles, an adopted girl (by a white couple) who lives in Texas. Cece is going to Xi'an, China on the S.A.S.S.(Students Across the Seven Seas) anthropology program for high school students. She is not only going to her country of origin, but she is also trying to find her birth family before the program's end. Cece's her adoptive father is with her on the decision to find her birth parents , but Cece's adoptive mother feels that may distance Cece from her adoptive parents. In China, she meets Will, a half-Chinese/half-white(?) boy she falls for after meeting him on the plane. Will is also pursued by a Chinese Asian American girl named Jess who has stereotypically tough Chinese parents who want her to be an anthropologist. Jess is depicted as a cocky girl, somewhat materialistic girl who sees life through blinders and would rather go clubbing than go studying . Cece also meets a white-American named Kallyn who - with Will - become her 'go-to' friends who give her second opinions on decisions made during this trip to China. Peter is a student Cece meets in China who acts as Cece's translator, and is assigned to show Cece around the city; all the exchange students are assigned a Chinese partner.

There are simple Chinese words towards the end of the novel as Cece interacts more with the Mandarin-speaking Chinese community.
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Both the series' description and this individual book's description gave off a definite whiff of Teen Chick Lit, and this man's man has something of an allergy to Teen Chick Lit as far as you know. One reason is that it is fairly easy for these kinds of books to go off the deep end either into absolutely routine fluff: boys, clothes, boys, makeup, boys, school problems, boys, etc., until you want to claw your face off, or to the opposite extreme of the overwrought Serious Issue where the Teen Angst is laid on so thick that not even a mop and bucket can soak it all up -- you are going to need a bilge pump. Not that I'd have any reason to know this, man's man and all that. It's just what I've heard.

Fortunately, Ms. Liu rather nicely balances the fluff with the serious here, providing not too much of either. On the one hand there's a cute boy, and Cece anguishes quite a bit over whether he notices her, why he notices her if he notices her, whether he likes her, whether he likes her roommate instead, etc.; on the other hand there's the Serious Issue: an adopted child seeking information about her birth parents, which is made somewhat unusual by involving an adoption of a baby girl from China. This juxtaposition keeps the story from dragging. If you should start getting tired of the teen love, it turns out to be time to take another step on the search for birth parent truth, and the same is true in reverse.

Now, frankly, I had no doubt that the "love" story would be brought to a happy conclusion -- I believe it's the law in Teen Chick Lit. However, Ms. Liu kept me guessing to the end about Cece's quest for truth; it was never clear that she would find out what she wanted to find out or that she would like what she found. I also liked the way Ms.
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By Track Eye on May 18, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a bit of a mixed bag -- mostly very good. I enjoyed the descriptions of China and I learned much about the culture and history of China. The tale of adopted Cece's search for her history is touching and well written -- a pleasure to read.

I was less impressed by the more typical teen fare included in this book -- descriptions of how Cece's butt looked in her jeans, for example. I'm wondering if that's the story the author really wanted to tell or if this was necessary tailoring for the S.A.S.S. series (it's the only one in the series I've read, so I don't have anything to compare it to).

I'm an older reader, not the target audience. I'm guessing older tween and teen girls would enjoy this even more than I did.
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