7 With a smoothly drawn and interesting plot, strong characters, and graceful writing, the story has more immediacy than much realistic contemporary fiction. ... this absorbing novel has a lot going for it.
—School Library Journal
In this quiet study of two girls, Cheng explores the universal difficulties of fitting in—at school, at home, in the community. … Many moments feel real—from secret meetings under the honeysuckle to a foray into the abandoned house next door, in which the suspense is palpable. Add in little lies, acts of bravery, family tussles and tensions, and a surprise or two. From this natural portrayal of childhood, Cheng reveals important truths about being true to friends, family and self.
—San Franciso Chronicle
Equally strong as a story of friendship, of three contrasting families, and of the immigrant experience.
—Horn Book Guide
What distinguishes the story are the judiciously selected actions and details that give its characters vivid individuality—how insecurity can be expressed as anger, the way subtle racism rankles, the little things that unify a family. Equally strong as a story of friendship, of three contrasting families, and of the immigrant experience.
This novel is certainly a friendship story, but it moves beyond the usual immigration-assimilation scenario to show the cultural differences across generations and inside families. Ting’s dad, desperate for his green card, hates needing Ting’s help (Just because you know English, do you think you know more than you father?’), and the parents tensions are always on the edge of each girl’s personal conflict. Although there’s no neat resolution, the girls do become friends, and Sarah enjoys learning some Chinese, even as she chops off her long, straight black hair. Many readers, and not only new immigrants, will recognize the truth about how hard it is to fit in.
Alternating between the perspectives of two fourth-grade narrators, Cheng (Marika) proves herself a gifted and sympathetic observer of middle-graders’ conflicts and concerns.
This deft character-driven story about two ten-year-old girls rings with clarity. … Honesty and subtlety co-exist in Cheng’s thoughtful, never-didactic writing.
The text is quietly eloquent in its restrained expression, and Cheng conveys a considerable amount of nuance through her characters’ apparently straightforward observations. Though Tina’s story of adaptation is the strong plot line, the alternation between Sarah's and Tina’s point of view effectively transforms this into a book about survival of loss and change rather than one that focuses specifically on immigration, and the gentle exploration of Sarah’s initial resentment of Tina will also offer readers food for thought. This will satisfy readers not quite ready for An Na’s immigrant drama Step From Heaven, or those simply looking for a different take on the old story of new friendship.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Books for those frequently overlooked intermediate grade girls are rare, especially one as poignant as this slim novel. Cheng seamlessly blends the stories of the lives of these three young girls, their sorrows and secrets, their joys and fears, and their families and friends. The author is careful not to wrap up all of the girls’ problems in a nice neat package at the end of this story. Instead reader will find that more time is needed to complete the new friendship; to cement new relationships among family members. This realistic take on pre pubescence is refreshing. Girls looking for stories about school and friendship and family will be thrilled to discover this book.
—Voice of Youth Advocates
This is a sensitive story about friendship and identity. The issue of racism is handled very effectively. …The prose captures the emotional intensity of the girls’ struggle to overcome the pain of separation from their friends and family. The characters are fully developed. This is a story of quiet courage as Sarah and Ting eventually forge a friendship based upon their respect for each other, not because they are of Chinese descent.
—Library Media Connection
Gr. 3-5. Sarah Wu resents the assumption that because she looks Chinese she will be an automatic friend for her classmate Ting Liang, newly arrived from China. In chapters alternating with Sarah's Asian American experience, Ting tells her story--how she left a grandfather she loved to rejoin parents she hardly knew and wasn't sure she liked, and how different it is to be a good Chinese child.
Gr. 3-5. Since her friend Victoria moved away, 10-year-old Sarah has been lonely, but not lonely enough to want to befriend Ting, the new girl from China. If she spends time with Ting, people might think they're sisters, or, worse, identical twins. Sarah doesn't speak Chinese anyway, and Ting doesn't speak English confidently yet, so what could they possibly have in common? As Sarah and Ting tell their stories in alternating chapters, a budding friendship develops, along with Sarah's interest in learning Chinese.
An all-American girl with Chinese ancestors and a new immigrant from China find little in common when they first meet in their fourth grade classroom.
—Library Media Connection