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Thursday, January 17, 2013

YA Immigration Novel as Exciting and Powerful as, well, a Fire Horse Girl

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Everyone knows that girls born in the Year of the Fire Horse take on that animal's worst traits—stubbornness, willfulness, independence.  All are qualities guaranteed to bring shame upon her family.  With such a portentous zodiac sign, 16-year-old Jade Moon Chang doesn't stand a chance.  Every move she makes in her little Chinese village is watched, judged.  Finding a man willing to marry such an unlucky girl is the worry of her father and grandfather.  Jade Moon fears the same, but for different reasons.  The last thing she wants is to remain in her tiny town, leashed by a husband who controls her every step.

Then, a stranger arrives, changing everything.  Sterling Promise, Jade Moon's adopted cousin from Hong Kong, comes bearing an amazing opportunity: a chance to live in America.  It sounds too good to be true, especially coming from the smooth-talking Sterling Promise.  Still, Jade Moon can't contain her excitement.  Not only is she leaving Jinjui Village, she's going to America!  A Fire Horse is sure to be welcome in that modern, enterprising world.

But, it's 1923, and Chinese immigrants aren't exactly welcomed to the U.S. with open arms.  In fact, they're held at Angel Island, near San Francisco.  A survey of her fellow detainees confirms that Jade Moon could be held there for days, weeks, even years—as long as it takes to determine she qualifies to stay in America.  If she doesn't pass muster, she'll be deported.  Jade Moon can't let that happen, but as the weeks roll by, she knows she can't remain on Angel Island either.  What is a Fire Horse girl to do?  Take matters into her own hands, of course.  As Jade Moon takes command of her own destiny, she steps right into San Francisco's ugly underbelly.  It's an adventure, sure, but not one anyone—even a Fire Horse girl—is likely to survive.

The Fire Horse Girl, a debut novel by Kay Honeyman, brings the Chinese immigrant experience to vivid life in a story that's as exciting as it is heartfelt.  Jade Moon is a sympathetic heroine, likable because of both her bravery and vulnerability.  Her adventure doesn't gloss over the harsh realities faced by Chinese immigrants in the 1920s—it celebrates their courage.  The Fire Horse Girl kept me thoroughly engrossed, totally entertained and thoroughly charmed.  I loved it.     

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other books about Asian immigrants coming to the U.S., especially those by Amy Tan and Lisa See)

Grade:  B+

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG for mild language (no F-bombs), violence and references (brief and not overly graphic) to prostitution

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The Fire Horse Girl from the generous folks at Scholastic.  Thank you!


1 comment:

  1. This one is coming up soon on my review list. So excited that you loved it because now I really can't wait to read it!


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