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Girl in reverse
2014
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Growing up in an adoptive family after her mother disappears, Asian-American Lily is targeted with prejudice during the Korean War and investigates antique fragments left behind by her mother with the help of an aggravating genius friend. By the author of Crossing the Tracks. - (Baker & Taylor)

"Lillian Firestone is Chinese, but the kids in her 1951 Kansas City high school can't separate her from the North Koreans that America is at war with. Sick of the racism she faces at school and frustrated that her adoptive white family just sees it as 'teasing,' Lily begins to search for her birth mother"-- - (Baker & Taylor)

Growing up in an adoptive family after her mother disappears, Asian American Lily is targeted with prejudice during the Korean War and investigates antique fragments left behind by her mother with the help of an aggravating genius friend. - (Baker & Taylor)

Being adopted isn’t easy—especially when you’re seen as a national enemy. A teen seeks the roots of her identity in this stirring novel from the acclaimed author of Crossing the Tracks.

When Lily was three, her mother put her up for adoption, then disappeared without a trace. Or so Lily was told. Lily grew up in her new family and tried to forget her past. But with the Korean War raging and the fear of “Commies” everywhere, Lily’s Asian heritage makes her a target. She is sick of the racism she faces, a fact her adoptive parents won’t take seriously. For Lily, war is everywhere—the dinner table, the halls at school, and especially within her own skin.

Then her brainy little brother, Ralph, finds a box containing a baffling jumble of broken antiques—clues to her past left by her “Gone Mom.” Lily and Ralph attempt to match these fragments with rare Chinese artifacts at the art museum, where she encounters the artistic genius Elliot James. Elliot attracts and infuriates Lily—especially when he calls their first kiss “undimensional.” With the help of Ralph and Elliot, will Lily summon the courage to confront her own remarkable creation story?

A poignantly beautiful novel, Girl in Reverse celebrates the formation of identity as well as the art that draws us all together. - (Simon and Schuster)

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Booklist Reviews

It's 1951, and 17-year-old Lily, the only Chinese person in her Kansas City high school, has become the object of intense bullying. Meanwhile, her dorky but lovable younger brother has discovered a strange lacquered box hidden in the attic. It came from Lily's birth mother—her "gone mom"—and inside is a jumble of strange objects that help Lily learn about her history and her ties to a beautiful new acquisition in the Chinese wing of her local art museum. Her adopted parents are no help, begging her to focus on moving forward instead of "living in reverse." Lily's first-person narration captures her frustration at school and with her family, her anger over the insults she hears on a daily basis, her guilt about searching out her biological mom, and her reluctance to share her past with the people who love her, all in a jolting tone that matches the fits and starts of her struggle to find her provenance. Stuber (Crossing the Tracks, 2010) offers a poetic, introspective story of a girl caught between two worlds. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews

Adopted Lily faces racism due to her Asian heritage in this novel set in Korean War era Kansas City. She struggles to come to terms with her abandonment by her birth mother ("Gone Mom") by piecing together clues to her past she finds in a wooden box in the attic. Readers will be drawn in by this poignant tale of finding one's true identity.

Kirkus Reviews

Searching for answers about her Chinese mother generates tension between Lily and her adoptive Caucasian family, while the onset of the Korean War prompts a growing anti-Chinese sentiment at her school. Lily rejects her Chinese heritage, perceiving it as socially unacceptable even as she deeply longs to understand her birth mother. Lily's fragmented memories of her mother—her scent, the color of her sweater, the texture of her hair—and the yearnings they inspire are the novel's most genuinely affecting moments. They convincingly explain Lily's determination to secretly investigate her heritage after her brother uncovers a box of Chinese artifacts in their attic. Unfortunately, the mystery of her mother that has so tormented Lily is too easily solved, thanks to a series of narrative conveniences that, taken together, seem unlikely. Several additional plotlines, including a romance, the school janitor's speeches about racism and a nun's decision to leave the order, further dilute the potential drama of Lily's search for her mother. Lily's spirited younger brother provides welcome instances of humor. Though the plot is sometimes uneven, ultimately readers will applaud Lily's increased appreciation of her Chinese heritage. Despite moments of beautiful sensory detail, the novel ends up feeling didactic rather than genuine. (Historical fiction. 12-18) Copyright Kirkus 2014 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Ever since age four when Lily joined the Firestone household, where "hard topics are... wrapped in sandpaper and swallowed," she has wondered why her parents adopted her. When the advent of the Korean War exacerbates the barrage of ethnic slurs 17-year-old Lily, her school's only Asian student, endures ("Now prejudice is free to eat in the lunchroom, ride the bus, join fraternities, sneeze, cough, speak up"), she is increasingly less able to "make a joke of it," as her father advises. Lily's determination to resist her tormenters sparks a search for her pre-adoption origins and core identity. Great works of art, like Rodin's The Thinker and Picasso's Girl Before a Mirror, reverberate throughout the story, while support comes from unexpected corners: art student Elliot, whose knack for caricature provides a potent weapon; Mr. Howard, the African-American school janitor; Mr. and Mrs. Chow, whose "foresight and guts" have brought them success; and, most movingly, Lily's intrepid younger brother Ralph. Stuber (Crossing the Tracks) creates a remarkable journey of self-discovery, inner resilience, and the fragile, surprising, and exquisite complexity of family. Ages 12–up. Agent: Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown. (May)

[Page ]. Copyright 2014 PWxyz LLC

School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 7 Up—Lillian Firestone describes herself as "a Chinese character without a plot." Adopted at an early age by an American couple, Lily has few memories of her birth mother and knows practically nothing about her Chinese heritage, yet she has been the recipient of Asian slurs from friends and classmates for as long as she can remember. Now, at the height of the Korean War, media-fueled hatred for Communist China is making high school, and even her home life, intolerable. When her little brother finds a hidden box of priceless Chinese antiquities bearing Lily's name, she becomes obsessed with discovering why she was abandoned by her "Gone Mom." Her adoptive parents dismiss her concerns, adamant that she is a member of their family and that she should not be living her life "in reverse." She seeks help from the nun at the orphanage, who helped with her adoption, but discovers more questions than answers when she is handed yet another box of Chinese artifacts left for her by her birth mother. It is the opening of a new exhibit of Chinese art and antiquities at the museum that finally provides her with some surprising revelations about her past. Stuber has created a fully realized, age-appropriate personality in the protagonist but fails to adequately develop the stories of intriguing secondary characters, such as her adoptive mother and Sister Evangeline, that could have provided additional insight into Lily's struggle for self-discovery to readers who face similar issues with their own adoptions.—Cary Frostick, formerly at Mary Riley Styles Public Library, Falls Church, VA

[Page 174]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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