Review: The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang

 

Title: The Great Wall  of Lucy Wu

Author: Wendy Wan-Long Shang

Publisher: Scholastic

ISBN: 978-0545162159

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

In this humorous and heartfelt debut about a split cultural identity, nothing goes according to plan for sixth-grader Lucy Wu.

Lucy Wu, aspiring basketball star and interior designer, is on the verge of having the best year of her life. She’s ready to rule the school as a sixth grader and take over the bedroom she has always shared with her sister. In an instant, though, her plans are shattered when she finds out that Yi Po, her beloved grandmother’s sister, is coming to visit for several months — and is staying in Lucy’s room. Lucy’s vision of a perfect year begins to crumble, and in its place come an unwelcome roommate, foiled birthday plans, and Chinese school with the awful Talent Chang.

Her plans are ruined — or are they? Like the Chinese saying goes: Events that appear to be good or bad luck often turn out to be quite the opposite, and Lucy finds that while she may not get the "perfect" year she had in mind, she can create something even better.

Wendy Wan-Long Shang has crafted an original and engaging story about learning who you are in the most unexpected ways.

Review:

I love stories about families.  If you mix in the potential for cultural misunderstandings, I’m even more interested.  The Great Wall of Lucy Wu is a heart-warming (and tear-inducing) read about a young girl who is trying to find herself.  This isn’t easy for Lucy; she feels inadequate next to her pretty, over-achieving sister, and her intellectually gifted brother.  Lucy is also the youngest, and her family treats her like a child.  I could definitely see why she is so frustrated with her family and with herself.

Though of Chinese descent, Lucy doesn’t think of herself as anything but American.  She loves pizza and Italian food, and, despite being one of the shortest girls in her class, she has big dreams of playing professional basketball.  She loves basketball, so it comes as an unpleasant shock when her parents insist she attend Chinese school on Saturdays instead of allowing her to play on the basketball team.  To make matters worse, her joy at finally having a room of her own after her sister goes off to college is short-lived.  Her great-aunt from China is coming for a visit, and she will be sharing Lucy’s room for months!  So much for the perfect year she had envisioned for herself!

Though I became frustrated with some of Lucy’s behavior, I did understand where she was coming from.  She lacked the maturity to express her feelings, and instead pouted or walled herself off from her family and friends.  When she first meets her great-aunt from China, a misunderstanding gets them off on the wrong foot, and that lack of communication haunts Lucy for almost the entire book.  She isn’t willing to put out the effort to try and understand Yi Po, and instead instantly resents her.  Lucy is the one who puts up a huge wall between them, and there are many times during the book that I feared she would never allow herself to scale it.

I found the book very touching, as Yi Po shares her life in China with her newly found family in America.  It wasn’t an easy life.  It was heartbreaking, as Yi Po was separated from her family by politics and distance.   When Lucy stops and puts herself into Yi Po’s shoes, then slowly, ever so slowly, does she begin to accept and understand her great-aunt.  With this new ability to empathize with others, Lucy also learns to open herself to others, and to not be so judgmental.  That is what I enjoyed the most about The Great Wall of Lucy Wu – Lucy learns how to become a caring and supportive young woman.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher