Title: Nowhere Girl
Author: AJ Paquette
Publisher: Walker Books
May Contain Spoilers
Luchi Ann only knows a few things about herself: she was born in a prison in Thailand. Her American mother was an inmate there. And now that her mother has died, Luchi must leave the only place she’s ever known and set out into the world. Neither at home as a Thai, because of her fair skin and blond hair, nor as a foreigner, because of her knowledge of Thai life and traditions, Luchi feels as though she belongs nowhere. But as she embarks on an amazing adventure-a journey spanning continents and customs, harrowing danger and exhilarating experiences-she will find the family, and the home, she’s always dreamed of. Weaving intricate elements of traditional Thailand into a modern-day fairy tale unique unto itself, Nowhere Girl is a beautifully rendered story of courage, resilience, and finding the one place where you truly belong.
This was a fantastic read! The cover made me think that Nowhere Girl would have some fantasy elements, which it did not, but I wasn’t disappointed in the least. This is a contemporary drama about a young girl who is trying to find her place in the world. If you follow the blog at all, you already know that I love books that explore this theme. I think it’s because I am still trying to figure out just exactly where I fit in the grand scheme of the universe, so I feel like I’ve found a kindred spirit when I read a story with a similar theme.
Nowhere Girl is unusual because Luchi Ann has spent her entire life with her mother, a prisoner in a Thailand jail. Luchi was born there, and it’s the only world she knows. When her mother falls ill and suddenly dies, Luchi is left alone. She doesn’t know who her father is, or who her mother really was. Her life is a giant jigsaw puzzle, and Luchi is desperate to discover the one thing that she is missing – herself. Her quest from the safe confines of the prison to the endless world of the outside, with its dangers and mysteries, is a huge step for her to make, all alone. She has nothing, save for the memories of her mother, and box of mementos that she has accumulated while living in the jail.
I loved this book. I loved the language, and how lyrically AJ Paquette crafted her sentences. They are a treat to read, and the words skillfully caused a cascade of emotions to course through me as I compulsively turned one page after another. I was quickly invested in Luchi’s quest – would she find the answers she sought, or was she traversing a path to heartbreak? Luchi is a very complex character, and she has one flaw that causes her grief time and time again. She is gullible and she is too trusting, having spent most of her life within the orderly confines of the prison. I experienced her betrayals and her confusion as the people she encountered treated her with varying degrees of trustworthiness.
Though the ending was a bit too rushed, and a bit too rosy, I loved Nowhere Girl. The setting is interesting, the emotions felt so real, and I was sad when I reached the last page. This is one of the most underrated books of the year. While it is marketed to Middle Grade readers, I think that it has a much broader appeal, and that older readers will find much to like about Luchi, and will become just as caught up in her adventures, as I did.
Review copy provided by publisher