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by Thannha Lai


School Library Journal:

/* Starred Review */ Gr 5 – 8 — The summer before she turns 13, Mai is planning to spend her time going to the beach and finally talking to her secret crush. She’s less than thrilled when her parents make her escort her grandmother to Vietnam instead. New information may have surfaced about her long lost grandfather, who disappeared over 40 years ago in “THE WAR.” Mai doesn’t know the culture or speak the language, and everything she knows about Vietnam is from a PBS documentary on the Fall of Saigon. While her parents are excited for her to learn more about her roots, the teen doesn’t even know the details of her own parents’ escape because “random roots are encouraged, but specific roots are off-limits.” Stuck in a village with limited internet access, a sulky Mai slowly makes friends due to lack of better things to do and bonds with her grandmother, with whom she was very close as a small child. Mai’s character growth is slow and believable, coming in small increments and occasionally backsliding. The sights, smells, and tastes of Vietnam’s cities and villages come alive on the page, without overwhelming a story filled with a summers-worth of touching and hilarious moments, grand adventure, and lazy afternoons. With a contemporary time setting, this compelling novel shows the lingering effects of war through generations and how the secrets our parents keep can shape us.—Jennifer Rothschild, Arlington CountyPublic Libraries, VA –Jennifer Rothschild (Reviewed January 1, 2015) (School Library Journal, vol 61, issue 1, p96)


  • ALA Notable Children’s Books – Older Readers Category: 2016


5th Grade, 6th Grade, 7th Grade, 8th Grade, Identity, Vietnam War