by Stacy Lee
First sentence: “In my fifteen years, I have stuck my arm in a vat of slithering eels, climbed all the major hills of San Francisco, and tiptoed over the graves of a hundred souls.”
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Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: There’s some violence (done my Mother Nature) and some horrible people saying horrible things. Also, an illusion to sex (by minor adult characters). It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.
Mercy Wong has Aspirations and Goals. She wants out of Chinatown, where the whole of San Francisco in 1906 wants to keep her and her family. She wants more than marriage (though she does like Tom, the son of a respected apothecary). She wants to Be Somebody. And, she’s decided that St. Clair’s School for Girls is the way to get it. She bargains her way in, and discovers that things aren’t always as simple as they seem. Then the earthquake hits, and when everything comes crashing down around Mercy, she discovers that perhaps the best things in life are friends and a bit of determination.
This really was a nice combination of historical — the dresses and rules of etiquette and restrictions on women — and modern, with Mercy’s progressive ideas and determination to do things without the permission of authority figures. Lee did a great job balancing the two, so it never felt too modern, nor too old-fashioned. I appreciated seeing San Francisco through a Chinese girl’s point of view, and Mercy really is one of those characters you just want to root for. I liked that while there was a romance, it didn’t dominate the story, and that Mercy was enough of her own person to make the romance believable rather than sappy.
I should go back and read Lee’s first book; I’ve heard good things about it. And if it’s anything like this one, it’s sure to be good.