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by Kelley Powell


Publisher’s Weekly:

First-time author Powell traces a Canadian teenager’s reluctant trip to Laos, alternating among his perspective and those of two Laotian teenagers. With a bad temper and worse attitude, Cam sulks amid the unfamiliar customs of the village he and his mother will be calling home for his senior year. His attitude softens as he gets to know a smart, kind girl named Nok, a practitioner of traditional fa ngum massage. Nok and her older brother, Seng, have been scraping by ever since their parents were taken away for political re-education and their older sister left for North America. The novel’s initially low stakes spike after a series of events lands Cam in prison, facing manslaughter charges. There are some pacing and plotting oddities (within 30 pages, all three POV characters are knocked unconscious in separate incidents), and the more sensitive moments in Cam’s narration can sound out-of-character (“In a culture as fluid and open-hearted as this, anything was possible”). Even so, the story offers an insightful window in Laotian life, history, and traditions while reminding readers that redemption can carry a heavy cost. Ages 12–15. (May) –Staff (Reviewed April 27, 2015) (Publishers Weekly, vol 262, issue 17, p)


10th Grade, 11th Grade, 12th Grade, 6th Grade, 7th Grade, 8th Grade, 9th Grade, Cultural Differences, Loss, Teen