Customer Reviews for

Girl in Translation

Average Rating 4
( 244 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(119)

4 Star

(72)

3 Star

(34)

2 Star

(14)

1 Star

(5)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

11 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

Great Coming-of-Age Story

This is a nice coming-of-age story. It's also a debut novel but sure does not read like this is the author's first novel. Kimberly Chang and her mother immigrate from Hong Kong to New York to what they hope will be a better life. However, they are sponsored by Kimberly'...
This is a nice coming-of-age story. It's also a debut novel but sure does not read like this is the author's first novel. Kimberly Chang and her mother immigrate from Hong Kong to New York to what they hope will be a better life. However, they are sponsored by Kimberly's aunt and uncle who put them to work in their sweatshop as repayment for their trip to America. They are put up in an abandoned apartment building owned by the aunt and uncle. They live in squalor among roaches and rats with the oven providing the only heat in the apartment. It doesn't take Kimberly long to realize the only way out of their situation is through her education. Kimberly studies hard and is given a scholarship to a top school where she excels. Kimberly, who is quite mature for her age, is caught up between the world of poverty in which she lives and the world of her classmates, who mostly come from well to do families. She struggles to keep her life at home a secret from her classmates.

I really appreciated the relationship between Kimberly and her mother. They both counted on each other to survive. When life took a bad turn they were really there for each other.

I liked this book a lot. It wasn't a rosy coming-of-age story like one might think it would be. I could feel the struggles, pride, and heartbreak that Kimberly and her mother both must have felt. I highly recommend this book!

posted by retromom on May 11, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

Not Worth the Money

I was intrigued by the jacket synopsis of this book and the book cover. The story was interesting, I finished it in two days, but there was no emotion, no splashes of color, it seemed almost a monotone recital of Kim's life. At the end I felt disappointed that there was...
I was intrigued by the jacket synopsis of this book and the book cover. The story was interesting, I finished it in two days, but there was no emotion, no splashes of color, it seemed almost a monotone recital of Kim's life. At the end I felt disappointed that there wasn't more...something to make me smile about a remembered passage, something to help me remember why I read it. Certainly not worth the $$ in these economic times.

posted by mysteriesformeCA on August 24, 2010

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  • Posted May 11, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great Coming-of-Age Story

    This is a nice coming-of-age story. It's also a debut novel but sure does not read like this is the author's first novel. Kimberly Chang and her mother immigrate from Hong Kong to New York to what they hope will be a better life. However, they are sponsored by Kimberly's aunt and uncle who put them to work in their sweatshop as repayment for their trip to America. They are put up in an abandoned apartment building owned by the aunt and uncle. They live in squalor among roaches and rats with the oven providing the only heat in the apartment. It doesn't take Kimberly long to realize the only way out of their situation is through her education. Kimberly studies hard and is given a scholarship to a top school where she excels. Kimberly, who is quite mature for her age, is caught up between the world of poverty in which she lives and the world of her classmates, who mostly come from well to do families. She struggles to keep her life at home a secret from her classmates.

    I really appreciated the relationship between Kimberly and her mother. They both counted on each other to survive. When life took a bad turn they were really there for each other.

    I liked this book a lot. It wasn't a rosy coming-of-age story like one might think it would be. I could feel the struggles, pride, and heartbreak that Kimberly and her mother both must have felt. I highly recommend this book!

    11 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 10, 2010

    Great Book

    I really enjoyed this book even though reading it made me sad and very angry. I know America is a great country but the ways that our immigrants were and are treated makes me mad. They are lied to and taken advantage of though in this book Kim and her mother were lied to and taken advantage of by their own blood which makes it even worse. I will never understand how people can sit back knowing this kind of stuff is going on and not lift a finger to help. Why is it so easy to turn a blind eye to other people's suffering? It's just not right.


    I admire Kim, the way she works so hard at school and then the factory to help her mother. She is determined to succeed and get her mother into a better situation. She is devoted to her mother and always puts her first. That is a trait that I believe more Americans need to work on.


    Kim's struggles in school with a teacher who really didn't give a crap tore my heart out and made me want to slap his face. But she overcomes, she moves upward and onward and never looses sight of her dreams. Kim is a very strong person who knows what she wants. Even though it is hard work getting there she never once gives up.


    I loved her friendship with Annette. Every one of us would be blessed to have a friend like that. One who sticks by you through thick and thin without judging, just is there to love and support.


    The ending for me was happy and sad and I will not go into detail because it would give too much away. If you haven't read this book, read it. I have no doubt it will make an impression on everyone who reads it.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 10, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Amazing!

    A cultured, violin-playing mother and her gifted eleven-year-old daughter flee Hong Kong and arrive in New York, full of the American dream. Within weeks they are living in a rat infested, unheated apartment and working in a searing sweat shop. Welcome to the world of Girl in Translation where life is never as it seems, from the supposedly welcoming aunty who quickly shackles her own sister and niece into near-slavery, to young Kimberly's charming protector who is the only person with the power to destroy her carefully crafted life.
    Jean Kwok has written a beautiful novel that is more than a coming-of-age story about succeeding in America, this story IS America, with its pride and its shame, its love story and heartbreak, its contradictions and glimpses into secret worlds from Chinatown to elite Manhattan prep schools. All of it tied together by the story of a mother who makes sacrifice after sacrifice for her child, but it is the child who sacrifices the most in return.

    6 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 11, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A POIGNANT, MOVING NOVEL WELL WORTH READING!

    Despite her young age, Kimberly Chang, an exceptionally intelligent young girl, enjoys none of the carefree privileges of childhood. Attending an elite private school on full scholarship while working in a sweatshop and living in squalor and hardship, Kimberly exists in two parallel worlds, and becomes a keen observer of each. She was brought to Brooklyn by her widowed immigrant mother with only basic command of English. A poignant, moving novel worth reading!

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 25, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Distinctive Voice and Unforgettable Characters

    This book has an authenticity that many other "immigrant" novels lack. It almost seemed as if the author had firsthand knowledge about the kind of dire poverty that her main characters lived in. Without shying away from the ugliness of their situation, the author chooses to celebrate their strengths and you find yourself rooting for the heroine as she overcomes her depressing situation against insurmountable odds.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 1, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Fascinating and enlightening read.

    This is an unforgettable, wonderful coming of age story of heartbreak and triumph of one Chinese-American who makes a life for herself and her family in a new country. There is tragedy, touched briefly, in some places, but all in all, it was a fascinating, and enlightening read.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 23, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok is a book that is very hard to put down. Once I picked it up, it took 2 days to complete and kept me thinking and feeling about the characters.

    At the age of 11, Kimberly and her mother move to America from Hong Kong expecting the American dream in New York City. Instead, their Aunt has brought them to a dismal existence in a condemned, rat infested building. Here Kimberly tries to do well in school and improve the conditions for her and her mother. Kimberly meets many obstacles; language barrier, working at the sweatshop with her mother at night, and ridicule from her peers. This unforgettable story has everything that will keep you turning page after page.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 8, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    4.5 Stars for this endearing read

    A child and her mother come to America, 'the Golden mountain', in hopes for a better life, escaping the threats of a communist Hong Kong. Knowing little English and nothing of the American culture, Kim is thrust into the taunting and hateful school environment at age eleven. At the same time, Kim and her mother are beholden to a jealous aunt who makes them work long hours in a factory doing sewing work. They live in squalor, amongst roaches and rats, in the projects of Brooklyn, yet with not many neighbors because the place has been condemned.

    The one saving grace for Kim is her intelligence and ability to catch on quickly. Kim makes a single friend who gets her through the days, and her mother never veers from her duty to try as hard as she can, although much of it is futile as they endure one freezing winter after another without any heat. Kim grows older and wiser, and surpasses the others at her school with stellar grades, and eventually gets accepted to Yale. Kim is forced to make a devastating choice go to Yale and leave her family obligations behind, or to accept her position in life as an immigrant forever trying to ingratiate herself into a foreign society.

    Well told with a blunt passion for the subject matter, I wonder how close the story is to the author's own experiences. The racism is an underlying current, but not forced upon us as this is truly one young woman's story of surviving New York with little assistance and becoming an accomplished adult despite of it. It is also the story of young love and the repercussions of the romantic liaisons. There were a myriad of characters offered, from schoolmates to teachers to employers, and each one was an important part to Kim's story. I enjoyed the novel and recommend for anyone wishing for a light and quick read that moves fast. I read this novel in a quick page flipping all-nighter so that I could learn what happens to these strong characters who had endeared themselves to me so quickly. Jean Kwok delivers a powerfully told story of a coming of age story that holds nothing back and gives everything expected, and more. With promise of much success from this new author, Girl In Translation has already been selected as an Indie Next List Pick as well as a Blue Ribbon featured pick for many book clubs.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 25, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A truly moving story

    I just finished Girl in Translation-couldn't put it down until the end! What a beautiful story and a reminder of hardships everwhere. I want my rising high school senior to read it-this is an inspiring example of how anyone can make it and how there are really no excuses for failure. Hard to believe this is a debut novel-can't wait to read more from Jean Kwok.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2014

    Outstanding

    One of the best books I've read in a long time. Great character development- I really became very fond of each one.

    I never post a review or rating. I felt compelled to do it on this book.

    Am recommending to friends and family.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 18, 2012

    You won't be able to put it down!

    Kimberly Chang emigrates from Hong Kong to Brooklyn with her mother at the age of 11. Thinking that they will be in good hands they fully trust Kimberly's aunt with making the arrangements for their arrival. They soon realize how wrong they had been. On top of that they end up working at the sweatshop in china town that is owned by Kimberly's aunt and uncle. Leading Kimberly to live a double life,a exceptional school girl by day and a sweatshop worker by night. Kimberly learns to disguise the hardships of her life like her familys pverty and the fact that she feels extreme pressure from having her family's future on her shoulders. She soon finds herself befriending a fellow factory worker and having to hide her true feelings for him.Kimberly's story is one of finding courage and discovering who you really are.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 25, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    fascinating inspiring contemporary

    Eleven years old Kimberly Chang and her mom left Honk Kong looking forward to "Minhaton" and the Liberty Goddess, but her Aunt dumps them into an unheated roach hell dump in a nasty part of Brooklyn. Mother and daughter survive by working at a Chinatown sweat shop while Kimberly struggles to learn English.

    Ashamed, Kimberly conceals her home life from her affluent classmates including her only friend Annette. Over the years in spite of having to work she tries her best at school as she knows her only hope out of abject poverty for her and her mom starts with a college scholarship.

    This is a fascinating inspiring contemporary fiction starring a wonderful girl who conceals her impoverish life from her schoolmates and friends though she feels guilty doing so as her mom works so hard (as does Kimberly) to give her somewhat a life. Character driven, fans will feel empathy for the young heroine while rooting for her to make it to the Ivy league and to give her mom one day a piano. Adults and high school teens will appreciate the powerful Girl in Translation.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 15, 2014

    My Secret Reader for the month of October picked this book out f

    My Secret Reader for the month of October picked this book out for me, and I was a little bit bummed at first. I had gotten the book years ago when Borders was shutting down after a recommendation from a friend. Back then I was hardly even looking at YA books and had been reading a fair amount of adult literature. This was also prior to my discovery of Goodreads and the way all the pretty covers can make me want books. Anyway, I was a little bummed because I was hoping I could knock off some older YA books I haven't read yet, but I was delighted to read this book.

    Girl in Translation was the best way to break up the monotony that YA can bring. I didn't have to worry about the cute guy being part stalker part hunk, or even entertain the idea of instalove. This book was everything that I miss about adult reading. It was evenly paced and beautifully written and while there was no big plot line where some big bad is lurking in the corner, it was a simple and heartbreaking tale about a girl who came to America with big dreams, and while it got hard at times, she never gave up.

    I really adored Kimberly and how witty she was. All the Chinese insults were fresh and interesting and while you couldn't always get what they meant right away, an explanation wasn't too far behind. I also loved that while the characters were speaking in Chinese, the text was in English never leaving me to puzzle out what was being said or having to wait for the author to provide a halfhearted explaination.

    I felt that each of the characters were wonderfully written and characterized. They were all their own unique person and not carbon copies of each other. While they were frustrating or down right awful, it was great to have people be so different. I felt that all the descriptions of all the characters were wonderful, I could vividly see many of them in my mind. I really enjoyed this book and I'm glad that my Secret Reader picked it for me!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2014

    Picked this book up at Barnes & Noble because something abou

    Picked this book up at Barnes & Noble because something about the cover caught my attention, and I found the title intriguing. I could not put this book down. Jean Kwok is an amazing storyteller. I am now looking forward to reading "Mambo In Chinatown". Very excited to have a new author to add to my list of favorites!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2014

    Highly recommend

    I like how the author spelled out the words being translated wrong. I had never thought of it before, will always remember to enunciate.
    Great book ,

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  • Posted January 2, 2014

    Love this story.

    Love this story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2013

    Very good story, really inspirational.  I couldn't put it down.

    Very good story, really inspirational.  I couldn't put it down.  Gives you a glimpse into a world that exists right around us but most people aren't aware of.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2013

    great read

    I truely loved this book. I could not put it down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2013

    Amazing story!

    Such a great read, I could not put this book down!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2013

    Such a great book

    This was the best book ,I have read this summer. I finished it in two days, I couldn't stop, until I was done, so inspiring, and well written.

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