Learning to Flyby Paul Yee
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Jason is on outsider. A recent immigrant from China, he lives in a close-minded town with his mother and younger brother. Trying hard to fit in, Jason falls in with the wrong crowd and ends up in trouble with the police. Jason finds he needs to fight to belong. Does he have what it takes to make this new place his home?
An immigrant from China, Jason, 17, struggles with his father's betrayal of his mother when he left her for another woman and the underlying sentiments of racism in a small Canadian town. Smoking pot is his way of coping, and, because of this habit, he finds himself with a new group of friends. While he is happy that some people have accepted him, he also feels that he has fallen in with the wrong crowd. The exception is Chief, a First Nations boy who can identify with some of what Jason experiences as a minority. They both must make life-altering decisions when Jason gets charged with drug trafficking and tragedy befalls Chief's family. While the book should be a draw for reluctant readers, the brevity of the story leaves little room for character development or resolution. Those looking for titles covering similar issues with a broader emotional range may prefer Gene Luen Yang's American Born Chinese (Roaring Brook, 2006) or An Na's A Step from Heaven (Front St., 2001).-Joanna K. Fabicon, Los Angeles Public Library
Seventeen-year-old Jason is having a hard time adjusting to life as a new Chinese immigrant in a small Ontario town. His parents have split, and he must work long hours in his mom's deli to help out. Lonely and disenfranchised, he's made no friends, save the potheads he gets stoned with, and is often the butt of school bullies' jokes. Then he meets Chief, a First Nations teen whose life is much harder than his own. When Jason is arrested for marijuana possession while making a buy from his dealer and Chief's sister dies from an overdose, the two loners lean on each other to make it through. Like other Orca Soundings titles, this novel discusses high-interest topics like drug use, racism and bullying at a comprehension level that is comfortable for reluctant readers. Yee, the author of several works for teen readers, employs a spare writing style that is well suited to this format. Interested readers may also enjoy his similarly themed short-story collection What Happened This Summer (2006). (Fiction. 12-14)
Read an Excerpt
The train swings around the curve. Its one headlight races toward us. High on the engine's nose, a window glints. The ground is shaking. I watch the train. It comes closer and closer. I dash to the tracks, watching a fence on the other side. Noise and wind swallow me. I jump.
Meet the Author
Paul Yee is the best-selling author of a number of titles including picturebooks and the short story collection, What I Did Last Summer. Paul lives in Toronto, Ontario, and continues to be one of the foremost chroniclers of the Chinese-Canadian experience.
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Jason is seventeen. He spends most of his time helping his immigrant mother run their Chinese deli at the mall. His chief complaint about working there, besides the fact that he works for free, is that people don't look at him when they stop to place an order. Just because he is Chinese it's like they expect him to speak broken English and not have a brain.
Shortly after the family arrived in the U.S., Jason's father left to run off with a younger woman, leaving Jason's mother to handle the business, Jason, and his little brother, Josh, who is fourteen years younger than Jason. His mother is constantly urging him to make friends at school and bring them home with him. But there are two problems with that: 1) no one at school is interested in a friendship with an oddball like Jason, and 2) when he does finally bring a few buddies home, his mother doesn't approve.
Jason's few acquaintances help him discover that a little bit of pot certainly helps make his life more bearable. He knows his mother would never approve, but she doesn't pay enough attention for it to be a real problem. As his frustration with working at the deli for nothing and taking the odd twenty dollar bill from his mother's purse becomes more of a hassle, Jason thinks maybe becoming a dealer would offer enough money and product to keep him satisfied.
However, this new deal also comes with complications, and they might be more than Jason can handle.
Author Paul Yee brings his Chinese-Canadian background to LEARNING TO FLY. His characters and their life struggles ring true and are likely to connect well with teen readers. Written in a fast-paced, easy-to-read style, this book should be successful with reluctant readers.