Review of Parachutes

Parachutes
by Kelly Yang
High School    Tegen/HarperCollins    485 pp.    g
5/20    978-0-06-294108-4    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-294113-8    $10.99

Claire lives in Shanghai with her wealthy, image-obsessed, and unhappy family. When Claire’s parents send her to prep school in America, she boards with a fellow student (who’s on scholarship), Filipina American teen Dani, and her single mother. Both Dani and her mom clean houses to support themselves; the intersection of the two girls’ worlds results, often, in cultural and class-based dissonance, but they have much in common in terms of how the world treats them. After Dani’s teacher and debate coach tries to seduce her, and Claire’s boyfriend rapes her, the teens find solidarity in each other and, in so doing, rebuild their lives and their identities. Yang has created two distinct and vibrant voices full of passion for both justice and independence. The teens’ experiences remain believable throughout, progressing from heartbreaking to empowering, without erasing their own faults. This convincing narrative, told in alternating first-person perspectives, confronts pervasive xenophobic stereotypes, with secondary characters’ complex identities adding depth and emotion to the story. An author’s note explains connections to real-life “parachutes” (wealthy Chinese students sent to schools in the United States) and to Yang’s own experience with sexual assault.

From the May/June 2020 Horn Book Magazine.

J. Elizabeth Mills

J. Elizabeth Mills is a PhD candidate and Project VOICE Research Assistant at the University of Washington Information School. She has written books for children, including The Spooky Wheels on the Bus, with Scholastic, Inc. She has been a researcher on the award-winning Project VIEWS2 study, Project LOCAL, and on a study investigating technology use in libraries with young children and their caregivers. She is co-author of Supercharged Storytimes: An Early Literacy Planning and Assessment Guide and co-editor of Create, Innovate, and Serve: A Radical Approach to Children’s and Youth Programming, with ALA Editions-Neal Schuman.

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