From the Publisher
"In the month after 16-year-old Maggie Chen’s father, a respected journalist, was killed in a hit-and-run accident, a basement flood destroys his notebooks...Ingold relies on some contrivance to link her plot strands, but the openended conclusion feels realistic and highlights Maggie’s elemental questions about how family history influences personal identity and how life moves forward after impossible loss." —Booklist
"Ingold (Hitch) weaves together two intersecting stories in this novel about identity and family...Though the historical chapters start slower, as Fai-yi's story builds, so does the tension and drama, especially his emotionally fraught relationship with his sister and star-crossed love...Ingold offers insight into the sacrifices and secrets involved in emigration from China during this period and their ripple effects." —Publishers Weekly
"This novel is a must read for those who love mysteries and family history." —VOYA
Maggie Chen, 16, an intern at a Seattle newspaper who is grieving her journalist father's recent death, is shocked to discover that he fabricated his family history. A smart, ambitious journalist in the making, Maggie sets out to discover why he lied, what happened to his-and her-real family and a possible link between his death and the government corruption case her newspaper is investigating. Interwoven with Maggie's engaging narrative is the story of Chinese twins Fai-yi and Sucheng Li. In a flashback to 1932, Fai-yi recalls how they entered the United States using a "paper father," a ruse to circumvent draconian laws prohibiting Chinese immigration. As the narratives merge, however, readers learn that responsibility for decades of loss and family alienation lies not with those events-Chinese poverty prompting mass emigration, brutal immigration laws harshly applied-but with one irredeemably evil character. Because evil is ahistorical, a cause rather than an effect, this motivation trivializes the novel's context, rendering it largely irrelevant. Lacking ties to character motivation and choices, even the accurate historical detail rendered here is reduced to cultural wallpaper. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)
Ingold (Hitch) weaves together two intersecting stories in this novel about identity and family. Most of the chapters are about likable 16-year-old Maggie Chen, who discovers that her recently deceased reporter father lied about his past; these are interspersed with the memories of Fai-yi Li, who immigrated to Seattle from China in 1932 at age 15 with his twin sister using falsified documents. As Maggie begins an internship at a newspaper, she uncovers a corruption story that may involve her father. “Why would my father, who'd always said a person was only as good as his or her word, have lied about his parents and about how he'd been brought up?” she wonders. Though the historical chapters start slower, as Fai-yi's story builds, so does the tension and drama, especially his emotionally fraught relationship with his sister and star-crossed love. The conclusion feels a bit anticlimactic, and in some cases the dialogue hits themes of identity rather hard. Still, Ingold offers insight into the sacrifices and secrets involved in emigration from China during this period and their ripple effects. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Susan Treadway M.Ed.
For 16-year-old Maggie Chen, her father's death by a hit-and-run driver cuts off any chances of sharing her newly launched career in journalism with the one person who inspired her. Quite soon after, however, things definitely got worse. A split washing machine hose spewed water into the basement which also flooded Steven Chen's office containing his papers, notes and life's work as a journalist with the Herald. Trying to sort her father's things before starting at the Herald as a new intern, Maggie is taken with a particular notebook. She reads detailed notes about a particular story he was assignedor was it? "Progress on family project, finally? Possible search will end right here! Give mail a week, then fly CA." With conflicting emotions about privacy and preserving valuable shreds of her beloved father, she destroys the notebook and does not discuss it with her mother. Curiosities plague Maggie's secret discoveries about who her father might really be while juggling a new job and helping her mother as they mourn his passing. Every day thoughts return to aspects surrounding the accidental death of this respected journalist while readers also follow the story of Fai-Yi Li who lives in Seattle's Chinatown. It is a most guarded life during the Chinese Exclusion Era, 1882-1943. His difficult life in the 1930's is deftly interwoven within current events as if readers are sorting out facts as well. Steadily, Maggie comes to the realization that perhaps "who" you are is much more important than where you are or how far you have come in life. Even as Jillian, another intern, teaches her this lesson in unexpected ways, Maggie plunges ahead like a professional detective to uncover the truth about her heritage. The last entry in her father's notebook confided, "The trouble with small deceits is that the poet was right: they do become tangled webs. And you can't foresee who will become ensnared in them or who will be hurt if you tear back through to the truth." Finally, she tells her mother everything, she apologizes to Jillian for misjudgments, is grateful for her special friendship, that Jillian was actually helpful and insightful, and knows that Great-Grandfather Fai-Yi Li will be an integral part of their new lives. There's an extensive Author's Note as well as References and Suggestions for Learning More which include books, documentation and Internet sources about the Exclusion Era laws. Reviewer: Susan Treadway, M.Ed.
VOYA - Laura Panter
Maggie Chen knows who she is and where she is going in life. All set to start a summer internship at the Seattle Herald, Maggie's dreams of becoming a journalist like her father are beginning to come to fruition until her world is turned upside down by her father's sudden death. Steven Chen's death seems like a freak accident until pieces of her father's life do not seem to add up. His college never heard of him, and his fraternity is nonexistent. When the Herald has Maggie assist on a breaking story of criminal activity, her father is implicated as a possible suspect. In order to clear her father's name, Maggie must investigate his death and find out who he really waseven if it means questioning her own identity. Ingold writes an emotional story of abandonment and love, alternating between the present and past to solve the mystery of Steven Chen's true heritage. Readers will feel heartbroken when in 1930s Seattle Chinatown, two young lovers never get the chance to make a life together, setting off a chain of events that lead to loneliness, longing and lies. Ingold's portrayal of Maggie's present-day family illustrates that a strong family can make anything bearable even when the past is unknown. As Maggie's passion in defending her father's innocence fuels the story along to a satisfying ending, readers will anxious turn pages to see if Maggie's suspicions about her father's past are correct. This novel is a must read for those who love mysteries and family history. Reviewer: Laura Panter
School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—The summer before her senior year, Maggie Chen begins her internship at a Seattle newspaper only weeks following the shocking death of her beloved reporter father. While sorting through his papers, she discovers that his heritage is not what she and her mother had always believed. At the Herald, Maggie finds herself unraveling a story involving murder and a local government scandal. However, she is taken off the story when leads suggest a connection to her father's death. Frantically, Maggie searches for clues to her father's past in order to clear his name. Raising questions about the nature of truth, Maggie struggles to understand the parent she thought she knew, and her own cultural heritage. Maggie's story is broken up by the 1930s voyage of Li Fai-yi, a Chinese teen who immigrates to America under a false identity to avoid the Chinese Exclusion Act. Ingold's picture of Seattle's early-20th-century Chinatown is haunting and convincing, offering a snapshot of the hardships of early American Chinese. Maggie is quiet and unassuming, but determined and intelligent. Still somber over her father's sudden death, she is fiercely proud of his accomplishments. This is a milder exploration of cultural identity than some other teen offerings, and is well documented. Ingold offers both a modern and historical look at the Chinese-American experience, but little else. Undeveloped side characters and overly successful genealogy research drag it down a bit.—Richelle Roth, Boone County Public Library, KY