Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao

 Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao, Simon Pulse (an imprint of Simon & Schuster), 9781534427617, 2019 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Real life, romance

What did you like about the book?  Ali lives in Indiana, the only Asian-American student in her corn-fed public high school. Her parents barely speak to each other or to her, and her trio of three “friends” employ microaggressions on daily basis. Add to this the racism she endures at the hands of other students and even teachers. No surprise then that Ali is isolated and depressed, with her passion for kung fu her only outlet. Enter Chase Yu, a hot transfer from New York, who Ali’s pals immediately find perfect for her. That plus the fact that Ali’s mom has always said she can only date a Chinese boy is enough to make Ali move as far from Chase as possible. But in fact, they are perfect for each other and together they set about trying to unravel the secrets that have divided Ali’s family. The whirlwind romance quickly transforms into an overseas adventure as Ali heads for China and discovers the story behind her mother’s detatchment. 

Chao makes liberal use of Chinese words and phrases, without supplying translation. I was usually able to fill in the blanks and found this device very effective. It reinforced Ali’s Chinese-American heritage and her experience of living in a dual-language household. Ali is a strong-willed and entertaining protagonist and her relationship with Chase is both romantic and egalitarian. Woven throughout the novel is the traditional Chinese folktale of “The Butterfly Lovers”, which echoes Ali and Chase’s love story.

Anything you didn’t like about it?  Ali’s high school seems blatantly unwoke. Her only ally is the school counselor, who doesn’t address the racism directed at her by teachers, let alone students. Where is the school district’s Office of Equity in all this? I also wasn’t buying that the school or Ali’s family would allow a senior taking six AP classes to fly to China at the drop of a hat. 

To whom would you recommend this book?  I loved American Panda, Chao’s first novel and think her fans will enjoy this book as well. It’s not as strong as her last outing, but the focus on romance and its role in Chinese-American relationships is unique.

Who should buy this book? High school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it? YA

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: November 17, 2019


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