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The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong Paperback – July 8, 2014
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-High school sophomore Vee Crawford-Wong is smart, witty, insecure, occasionally brash, and living with parents who refuse to talk about their pasts. When his history teacher assigns an essay on family history, the teen invents grandparents and experiences to explain his half-Chinese, half-Texan identity. Angry at his parents' silence on this issue, Vee, with the help of his Asian friend, Madison, forges a letter from Vee's imagined Chinese grandparents inviting their son and his family to visit China. When the trip becomes a reality and his dying grandfather is actually located, Vee at last begins to understand his father and himself. This engaging narrative is brimming with what-I-am-thinking vs. what-I-just-did quandaries about girls, sex, athletics, bullies, teachers, coaches, and family relationships. Vee's crush on volatile hottie Adele temporarily blinds him to the loyalty and support of Madison and the integrity of his teacher. His joking demeanor belies his (and possibly readers') understandable frustration with his parents' lack of communication. Ultimately, his mother's and father's family histories and tensions are partially revealed. Although rambling in spots, Vee's story is upbeat, entertaining, and humorous. His personal dilemmas and explicit descriptions and language capture the adolescent male psyche; offer a mixed-ethnicity perspective; portray the social crosscurrents of public high school; and highlight the values of family, forgiveness, and self-respect.-Gerry Larson, formerly at Durham School of the Arts, NCα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Vee longs to know more about his mysterious family. Why does Dad never talk about China? Mom hails from Texas but never mentions her family. And that’s only one of the wisecracking California teen’s issues. He longs to be on gorgeous Adele’s radar, make the basketball team, and be less disappointed in the whole business of high school. When JV basketball does not pan out and Vee becomes the girls’ team manager, his social life opens up—but so does a new level of angst. Aided by a friend, Vee forges a letter from China asking the Crawford-Wongs to visit and reconnect with their roots. Will Dad buy it? Suffice it to say, the China trip is the best part of the story, full of suspense regarding who they’ll meet and benefiting from the well-drawn relationship between Vee and his father. The R-rated high-school element includes some stereotyping, and Vee’s intense self-reflection gets a bit overdone. Still, the bittersweet conclusion saves the day and shines a poignant light on family life, regret, and gratitude. Grades 9-12. --Anne OMalley --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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A high school student with a Chinese father and an American mother is asked to write a history paper describing his family. He’s so ignorant of his genealogy that he promptly makes one up. And I feel another tiresome YA theme coming on—that is, until I read a few pages and find what a brilliant twist this debut author has given multiculturalism, a theme that so many others have turned into a cliché.
Vee’s hopes and fears feel real from the start. L. Tam Holland’s humor and unwillingness to pull punches on what has become a landscape of politically correct stories on cultural assimilation is what really makes Wong a hilarious and heartfelt coming of age tale for the 21st century.
Just read Vee’s attempt to explain his failure as a basketball manager to his parents over dinner:
“We sat in a sticky booth and ordered prawns in sweet-and-sour slime, kung pao chicken and oily chow mein. Mom and Dad asked about the basketball game, and I tried to remember the parts that didn’t include me or Adele or Riley. I was amazed they couldn’t see right through me. They didn’t sense that things were terribly wrong. At least I knew that their lives were a complicated, secretive mess. They didn’t know anything about me, and they were stupid enough to believe me whenever I told them that things were just fine.”
What a welcome relief from all those stories where the stereotypical Asian family magically assimilates and sends their child to an Ivy League school. I nearly fell out of my chair when I found out that the voice of a boy who had gotten in my head for over three-hundred-pages was created by a female author. L. Tam Holland is a writer to watch. And to read…
Author successfully displays understanding of so many teen ways of being awkward, screwing up, and, often enough, having noble impulses and doing what's good and true.
At times, Vee seems to me a little too astute in his self-reflection for a 15 yr. old with a big appetite for life, having so much to experience and integrate .
Otherwise, an imaginative and rewarding novel. Also, there is a tremendous amount of humor involved in examining teens. Holland gets this. I laughed hard dozens of times.
Although it is a teen book adult characters are an integral part of the story and are portrayed very realistically and believably, rather than appearing as mere caricatures. The teenagers are also portrayed realistically. There are no good guys or bad guys, just people finding their way among all the difficult choices to be made in daily life.
Humor is used as a necessary ingredient for getting through all the messes we find ourselves in from time to time. I found myself laughing often and stopping to re-read sentences and even whole sections that serve as a reminder of this. But I also found myself moved to tears because I felt what the characters were feeling and could understand the hope and sorrow that is also a part of life and the complicated relationships between parents and children.