OUR WAYWARD FATE, by Gloria Chao , Simon Pulse, Oct. 15, 2019, Hardcover, $18.99 (young adult)
Don’t let the first line of Gloria Chao’s Our Wayward Fate — “My mom believes in magic penises.” — put you off. It certainly raised my eyebrows, but it totally makes sense as you read on.
Seventeen-year-old Ali Chu knows that as the only Asian person at her school in middle-of-nowhere Indiana, she must be bland as white toast to survive. This means swapping her congee lunch for PB&Js, ignoring the clueless racism from her classmates and teachers, and keeping her mouth shut when people wrongly call her Allie instead of her actual name, pronounced Āh-lěe, after the mountain in Taiwan.
Her autopilot existence is disrupted when she finds out that Chase Yu, the new kid in school, is also Taiwanese. Despite some initial resistance due to the “they belong together” whispers, Ali and Chase soon spark a chemistry rooted in competitive martial arts, joking in two languages, and, most importantly, pushing back against the discrimination they face.
But when Ali’s mom finds out about the relationship, she forces Ali to end it. As Ali covertly digs into the why behind her mother’s disapproval, she uncovers secrets about her family and Chase that force her to question everything she thought she knew about life, love, and her unknowable future. —Synopsis provided by Simon Pulse
I was completely floored by Our Wayward Fate. As one of the crowd in a homogenous area, I wondered at first how I would relate to Ali. In the end, though, it was a nonissue. She’s such a strong character, I found myself completely swept up in her story The connection came in her emotion and desire to be seen as her true self.
Our Wayward Fate ties contemporary romance to a Chinese folktale. Chao brings both worlds together by balancing humor with heartbreaking discoveries. Chao’s prose is bold and bright and immediately comfortable. This is a good coming-of-age novel for older young adults.
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