Summer vacation is days away and Mai is dreaming about heading to the beach, hanging with her friends and just maybe getting a chance to catch the eye of that cute guy who read his poem out loud in class. Sounds great until her parents inform her she is going to have to accompany her grandmother back to Vietnam.
Mai's parents are busy people. Her father is a doctor who is coming on the plane but will need to head north to perform surgery on needy children. Her mother is a lawyer with a huge case coming up so she will need to stay home in Laguna Beach, California.
Grandmother needs to get home to follow a lead that just might finally reveal what happened to grandfather when he went off to fight in the War. That would be the Vietnam War to those of us in the U.S. It's just called the War when you're in Vietnam.
Mai rebels and then gets on the plane. She has hopes that she'll be able to get her grandmother whatever she needs quickly and then Mai can get back home to lip gloss, bikinis and memorizing one SAT vocabulary word a day.
Vietnam is different. It's the land of her heritage but she doesn't feel a connection to these people who show up announcing themselves as her relatives. She is assigned a young guy to be her interpreter and her grandmother proudly introduces her to village after village.
For Mai this is going to be a summer of growing up. This is going to be a summer of opening herself to food and ways of doing things and people who aren't living according to her rules. She will learn a lot about herself by learning about them and what they value in their lives...family first... helping each other.... struggling to get into good schools so they can succeed and give back to those who carried them so far.
This is a character driven story about a young girl who is given a gift wrapped in something she thought she would never enjoy, never accept and certainly never embrace.
978-0062229182 260 pages Ages 9-13
Recommended by: Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com
Read Alike: Inside Out and Back Again; One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia