The Fire Horse Girl

The Fire Horse Girl

5.0 4
by Kay Honeyman

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Jade Moon is a Fire Horse -- the worst sign in the Chinese zodiac for girls, said to make them stubborn, willful, and far too imaginative. But while her family despairs of marrying her off, she has a passionate heart and powerful dreams, and wants only to find a way to make them come true.

Then a young man named Sterling Promise offers Jade Moon and her father a

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Jade Moon is a Fire Horse -- the worst sign in the Chinese zodiac for girls, said to make them stubborn, willful, and far too imaginative. But while her family despairs of marrying her off, she has a passionate heart and powerful dreams, and wants only to find a way to make them come true.

Then a young man named Sterling Promise offers Jade Moon and her father a chance to go to America. While Sterling Promise's smooth manners couldn't be more different from her impulsive nature, Jade Moon falls in love with him on the long voyage. But America in 1923 doesn't want many Chinese immigrants, and when they are detained at Angel Island, the "Ellis Island of the West," she discovers a betrayal that destroys all her dreams. To get into America, much less survive there, Jade Moon will have to use all her stubbornness and will to break a new path... one so brave and dangerous, only a Fire Horse girl could imagine it.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Sixteen-year-old Jade Moon was born in the unlucky year of the fire horse, making all her faults “burn with increased strength.” In 1923 China, she is trapped in a small town where she is vilified by neighbors and ignored by her father and grandfather. Hope arrives in the form of a man named Sterling Promise, who needs Jade Moon’s father’s help getting into America. Jade Moon joins them, though she doesn’t entirely know why (“Women are brought to America either to be wives or prostitutes,” Jade Moon is warned en route. “You may have dreams, but your father and Sterling Promise have plans”). Debut author Honeyman faces head-on the racism and hardship that awaited Chinese immigrants; when Jade Moon’s application for entry is denied, she steals Sterling’s identity and papers, ending up in San Francisco’s Chinatown disguised as a man. Historical details create a strong sense of setting, and readers will recognize (well before Jade Moon does) that her inner fire is an asset, and that she’s much more than the sign under which she was born. Ages 12–up. Agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (Jan.)
Children's Literature - Lois Rubin Gross
Jade Moon has the ill luck to be born a Fire Horse, a rare astrological sign that guarantees her a life of conflict, stubbornness, and reflected bad fortune. Her choices are limited; she can marry the village brickmaker or immigrate to America, said to be the land of opportunity and potential freedom. Jade Moon and her weak father become part of a "paper family," a grouping of people who memorize details of a made-up life in order to convince customs officials of their relatedness. They travel with Sterling Promise, a practiced conman, whose goal is to get to America, marry Jade Moon for her inheritance, and return her to China. The conditions on Angel Island (the West Coast equivalent of Ellis Island) are prison-like, for women in particular. Jade Moon uses a ruse—stealing Sterling Promise's clothes and passing as a man—to get into America. She becomes involved with the deadly Tongs and soon finds herself upgraded to the role of "enforcer," meaning she must fight for her freedom and the freedom of other women. This is actually a well-told tale with historical nuggets of fact introduced for substance. Jade Moon becomes more and more stuck in her situation, and must eventually rely on her Fire Horse qualities and the friendship of an Irish thug to make her mark in the New World. The one possible flaw, which dates back to Shakespearean gender bending, is this question: how does Jade Moon live with a Tong family for five months and hide her menses cycles? Also problematic is the cover art, which shows hip, contemporary-looking teens although the story is set in the 1920s. As the saying goes, "don't judge a book by its cover." This is an appealing romance with a strong, feisty heroine. If her exploits perhaps defy historical reality, suspend belief and enjoy Jade Moon's tale. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Jade Moon, 16, was born in the year of the Fire Horse, a cursed year for girls. She is too bold, too brash, too stubborn, and is told she will bring nothing but sorrow and bad luck to her family. When a stranger named Sterling Promise shows up at her home in China carrying papers to America with her dead uncle's picture, a plan is hatched for Jade Moon, her father, and Sterling Promise to journey to a new country. The long voyage ends with Jade Moon being forced to spend desperate months on Angel Island waiting to be approved to enter California. However, when the headstrong girl realizes that her father and Sterling Promise are using her for their own ends, she sets out on her own. The action picks up when she cuts off her hair, disguises herself as a boy, and ends up working as hired muscle for one of the tongs in San Francisco's Chinatown. Her time working for them infuses the story with a classic 1920s gangster flavor, a refreshing twist on the Chinese immigration story. While some aspects force readers to suspend disbelief (e.g., the fact that Jade Moon is immediately installed in the house of the head of the tong and that she is able to hide her gender for so long), the action and Jade Moon's unbreakable spirit will win them over.—Jennifer Rothschild, Arlington County Public Libraries, VA
Kirkus Reviews
Hoping to escape the curse of being a Fire Horse girl, a Chinese teen emigrates to San Francisco in 1923, where she encounters deceit, disappointment and danger. Chinese girls born in the year of the Fire Horse are ruled by their fiery temperaments. A Fire Horse girl, 17-year-old Jade Moon's temper, stubbornness and selfishness ensure that she is scorned and single in her rural village. When handsome, smooth-talking Sterling Promise appears, professing to be her uncle's adopted son, he convinces Jade Moon and her father to go with him to America to make their fortunes. Wary of but attracted to Sterling Promise, Jade Moon sees this as her chance to begin a new life. Arriving in San Francisco, they are detained in prisonlike barracks on Angel Island--where Jade Moon discovers that her father and Sterling Promise have betrayed her. To avoid returning to China, Jade Moon poses as a man and slips into Chinatown, where she's ensnared by a gang involved in prostitution. In a defiant first-person voice, Jade Moon describes the desperate lives of Chinese immigrant women as she relies on her Fire Horse persona to save herself. Period details about American anti-Chinese sentiment and the hidden side of Chinatown provide historical context to Jade Moon's disturbing story. Perilous, page-turning adventure in old Chinatown. (author's note) (Historical fiction. 12-18)
From the Publisher

* "First-time author Honeyman has researched the history of Angel Island and early twentieth century San Francisco carefully, yet the ultimate strength of this story is in her character Jade Moon. Her voice, authentic and consistent, transcends this historical fiction/adventure/love story to embrace every young woman who has ever searched for the real person hidden under the veneer of society's expectations." -- Booklist, starred review

"Readers will recognize (well before Jade Moon does) that her inner fire is an asset, and that she's much more than the sign under which she was born." -- Publishers Weekly

"Perilous, page-turning adventure in old Chinatown" -- Kirkus Reviews

"A refreshing twist on the Chinese immigration story" -- School Library Journal

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Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)
660L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

“What do you think America will be like?” I asked Sterling Promise.

“Your uncle used to say that it was a place where stories began. A place where any ending was possible.”

My eyes widened. “Did Uncle like stories?”

“He liked possibilities,” he said. “I think America is a land that allows you to walk away from an old life into a better one.”  

I nodded slowly.

“And you, what do you think it will be like?”

“It will have... what do you call it? Getting to live as who you are?”

“Freedom,” he said. But he wasn't looking at me.

“That is what it will be. Freedom.”

Meet the Author

Kay Honeyman became fascinated with the topic of Chinese immigration after she and her husband adopted a son from China in 2009. The Fire Horse Girl is her first novel. Kay teaches language arts in Dallas, Texas, where she lives with her family. Please visit her website at

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