Miss Fortune Cookieby Lauren Bjorkman
Meet Erin. Smart student, great daughter, better friend. Secretly the mastermind behind the popular advice blog Miss Fortune Cookie. Totally unaware that her carefully constructed life is about to get crazy.
It all begins when her ex-best friend sends a letter to her blog—and then acts on her advice. In this novel from Lauren Bjorkman, Erin's efforts to/p>
Meet Erin. Smart student, great daughter, better friend. Secretly the mastermind behind the popular advice blog Miss Fortune Cookie. Totally unaware that her carefully constructed life is about to get crazy.
It all begins when her ex-best friend sends a letter to her blog—and then acts on her advice. In this novel from Lauren Bjorkman, Erin's efforts to undo the mess will plunge her into adventure, minor felonies, and possibly her very first romance.
What's a likely fortune for someone no longer completely in control of her fate? Hopefully nothing like: You will become a crispy noodle in the salad of life.
“In this tale of growing up and apart, Bjorkman (My Invented Life, 2009) does a fine job capturing the intense pressures and disappointment students face when college-admissions time rolls around.” Booklist
“I knew I was going to like this book the second the main character asked a Ouija board if her sister was a lesbian.” Brent Hartinger, author of Geography Club on My Invented Life
“Shakespeare would be proud to be included in this smart, funny, cheeky book.” Ellen Wittlinger, author of Hard Love, Love & Lies, and Parrotfish on My Invented Life
“Humorous and heartfelt.” Booklist on My Invented Life
“Roz's voice is witty and genuine.” Publishers Weekly on My Invented Life
“This is an enjoyable read that will be especially appealing to theater aficionados.” School Library Journal on My Invented Life
Read an Excerpt
Miss Fortune Cookie
By Lauren Bjorkman
Henry Holt and CompanyCopyright © 2012 Lauren Bjorkman
All rights reserved.
You will have much luck and little hardship. Or the other way around.
My friends and I were riding home from school on Muni, clinging to an assortment of slippery handholds, when Linny almost blew my secret identity. Intentionally.
"Listen to this one," she said, reading off her iPhone, a faint but smirky glint in her eyes. "'Dear Miss Fortune Cookie. My cousin thinks I'm chasing her boyfriend. Her boyfriend and I never flirt, but sometimes we text. What can I do to make her believe me? Just Friends.'"
In fact, I — Erin Kavanagh, alias Miss Fortune Cookie — had posted this very letter on my anonymous advice blog, and Linny happened to be the only person in San Francisco to know that, the only person in the whole world, except for some random administrator at WordPress. She takes every opportunity to harass me about keeping my blog a secret. "What advice would you give, Erin?" she asked, winking this time.
I kept my face as neutral as possible. Luckily Darren and Mei were only paying attention each other. As usual.
Personally speaking, I think nano-deceptions are a good thing. I regularly use them to protect my friends from unpleasant truths. Should I tell Linny that her favorite knit hat makes her head look like a furry meatball? Or nudge Mei whenever Darren winces at her hyena laugh? Should I have cautioned Darren that taking AP physics would wreck his grade-point average? Absolutely not. Sincere lies keep everyone happy.
I blew the hair out of my eyes. "The cousin will never stop suspecting the two of them," I said to Linny, "so Just Friends has to stop the texting. She could get her own boyfriend. Or move to somewhere far away like Moldavia."
Muni, a sort of bus powered by electric wires overhead, jerked to a halt. A seat opened up, and Linny took it. "Exactly!" She had the happiest smile ever, so big it barely fit on her face. Metaphorically speaking. "Mei, don't you think Erin is a natural at giving advice?"
"Hmm?" Mei said. She was somewhat entwined with Darren and therefore distracted.
"Nothing." I jabbed Linny in the ribs to get her to stop talking. Gently of course. The three of us — Mei, Linny, and me — made an enviable friendship trio. I was the lesser third, maybe because Mei and Linny were gorgeously Chinese-American, while I was just Boring-American. A Person of Irish.
Mei knew nothing about my connection to Miss Fortune Cookie. We used to be best friends, and by best friends I mean we spent every afternoon and weekend together until eighth grade, when things fell apart between us. The truth is, Mei dumped me. Then Linny brought us together again during freshman year, inviting us both to eat lunch with her, forming a little group. A few months later, I mustered the courage to bring up the dumping incident with Mei, except she didn't want to talk about it. So we became friends again without dealing with the past. Pretty much.
Except I didn't trust her like I used to.
And she didn't share as many intimate details about herself with me.
Linny beckoned me closer to whisper in my ear. "I have a question for Miss Fortune Cookie. A very personal one. But you can't tell Mei."
She lowered her voice more. "You just can't, 'kay?"
I nodded. Linny usually let both of us in on every detail about her life, although lately she'd been secretive about her new boyfriend. Whatever it was, it wouldn't be boring. I turned my back toward Mei and said in my quietest voice, "Go ahead. I'm listening. What is it?"
Linny shook her head. "Not now."
Just then, the Muni driver made the sharp turn into Chinatown, and three things happened almost simultaneously: a bicyclist veered into the road, the driver slammed on the brakes, and I fell into another passenger. We came to a halt fifty feet from the stop, and the bicyclist escaped unscathed. I could tell by the vigorous way he flipped off the driver. Then I caught sight of Mrs. Liu, bundled against the fog, among the passengers waiting to board.
"Your mom!" I whispered to Mei. "She's getting on!"
Mei's eyes widened. "What the what?"
Which demonstrates a problem with sincere lies — in this case, Mei's lie to her mom about not having a boyfriend. They can be found out. Darren dropped his arm from around Mei's waist and grabbed his backpack. "Bye," he mouthed before zipping to the back and catapulting out the rear door. He's considerate like that.
Mrs. Liu's grocery bags thumped against the handrail as she marched up the steps. She has sharp, high cheekbones and is tall like her daughter. She and Mei both have blunt-cut hair that reaches their shoulders. Our favorite salon in Chinatown sometimes offers two-for-one specials.
Mei hurried to the front to take the two largest bags. "Ma, let me."
Mrs. Liu stretched her swan neck toward the window. "Who is that with you?"
Mei shook her head nervously. "No one. Just Erin and Linny. I invited them to help with the turnip cakes."
"No. I see boy before." Mrs. Liu believed with every sinew in her heart that a boyfriend would distract Mei from her schoolwork, ruining her chances of getting into the number one university in the country, Harvard. So when Mei fell in love with Darren last spring, she kept it a secret from her mom. For thirteen whole months. Which showed amazing ingenuity and skill on her part, but once you start a lie, it's hard to escape it.
"Who is boy?"
"Oh, him," Mei said. "Someone from AP chem. We were discussing the homework. Chemical reactions." She blinked fast. "And stuff like that."
To be fair, most people have trouble lying to Mrs. Liu. Her eyes bore right through your skull and read your thoughts as if you accidentally uploaded them onto Facebook. It's her superpower.
Linny stood up to offer her seat to Mrs. Liu. "Mr. F assigned loads of homework over the weekend. He wants us in top shape for the AP test."
Mrs. Liu ignored the seat. She had just turned forty and didn't appreciate the senior-citizen treatment. "Very good. Homework make you smart."
"Ma, please sit down. Ni shi lao." That means you are the elder, a show of respect. It also means you are old.
"I am comfortable," Mrs. Liu said.
Mei continued arguing politely. Though most Chinese immigrants to San Francisco speak Cantonese, a dialect common in the south of China, Mrs. Liu emigrated from the north, where they speak Mandarin. I was fluent enough to follow their conversation.
"Ma, ni zuo." Ma, just sit.
"Gaosu wo ta de mingzi." Tell me his name.
Before they resolved anything, the driver pulled into the stop by Mrs. Liu's restaurant, and we all got off. Hay Fat occupies a prominent street corner in Chinatown. Mrs. Liu's heightened culinary sensibility has turned it into a legend, luring in the more adventurous tourists and fussy locals. She serves authentic dishes with ingredients such as fermented bean paste, whole fish with eyeballs intact, and lotus. Her menu also includes beef broccoli in case people with less sophisticated palates wander in by mistake.
We entered the kitchen through the alley. The dinner rush had yet to begin, which meant we had the place to ourselves. After setting me up with the grater and Mei with the bacon to steam, Mrs. Liu tossed a handful of sesame seeds into sizzling oil at the bottom of the wok. I closed my eyes to better appreciate the scrumptious smell.
"What should I do?" Linny asked. I looked at her appraisingly, wondering about her secret. Not that we could talk here in the kitchen.
Mrs. Liu handed her a bowl. "Cut mushrooms. Very small pieces."
I consider Hay Fat my second home. Mom and Mrs. Liu met when Mei and I were in preschool and have been good friends ever since. We live one floor below them in an apartment a few blocks from here in a quieter part of Chinatown. Mrs. Liu has always welcomed me into her kitchen, even during that black year when Mei and I barely spoke.
What I know of her life before America comes through Mom. Twenty-three years ago, Mrs. Liu studied cooking at a special school in China that trains workers for American restaurants. After finishing the program, she immigrated to San Francisco, where she met Mei's dad. He soon left her, and she has remained single ever since. Which could explain some of her gruffness.
"No lollygagging," Mrs. Liu said. The cloth she wore over her hair fell askew, and my fingers itched to straighten it. I didn't stop grating for a second, though, because sometimes when I slack off from a job she's given me, she'll pinch my arm. Not hard, but still.
Linny held out her cutting board for inspection. "Are these pieces small enough?"
Mrs. Liu took the board and tossed the mushrooms into the wok. "Almost. Watch. This is secret part. Very important. Not in recipe."
Smoke rose from the hot metal. While Mrs. Liu stirred up a storm, I took the chance to rest my aching muscles. As I was standing there, I noticed that the photographs hanging over the sink had been dusted recently. One showed fouryearold Mei holding a pen and scroll, a minischolar. Next to it hung a picture of me dressed as a sunflower for our preschool play.
The turnip cakes were for a party next week, an event to celebrate Mei's acceptance into Harvard. Mrs. Liu had planned it out a long time ago. I think she decided on which dishes to serve before Mei started high school. Last July, she bought boxes of scarlet and black decorations. She mailed the invitations a month ago. Harvard's acceptance emails, though, wouldn't go out until tomorrow, April 1, at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.
Now Mei just had to get in.
The three of us attend Lowell, a high school for academic types — nerds in the best sense — a rare public school that students compete to get into. At Lowell, we have a popular crowd, hipsters, and partiers like everywhere else, but we worry more about SAT percentiles and college choices than our counterparts. For us, the first of April is bigger than the Academy Awards. Tomorrow, hopes would be mangled and dreams decapitated.
Mrs. Liu spun around to face Mei. "Meihua! That boy on bus. Shi bu shi boyfriend?"
Meihua blinked. "He's not, Ma."
Linny and I exchanged glances.
full denial = a lie of omission × 10
Mei's sincere lie had gone bad, turned slimy and evil smelling like leftovers jammed to the back of the fridge behind the sauce jars.
"The stove!" Linny yelled.
Flames shot upward. Mrs. Liu calmly fetched a small broom and beat out the fire in three precise strokes. She's efficient like that. "You are young. You cannot know love."
Except Romeo and Juliet were young, and though Darren had not declared his devotion publicly from the alley or climbed a trellis to the window leading to Mei's bedchamber, Romeo had nothing on him when it came to passion. I'd seen more of that than I cared to, in fact.
Mei laid the steamed bacon on a clean bamboo chopping block and commenced mincing it into molecule-sized bits. Mrs. Liu waved her spatula. "Harvard most important thing. Future more valuable than useless boy. You tell me, Erin. Who is boy?"
My hand flew across the grater, and the mound of turnips grew. "The boy on Muni?"
Mrs. Liu growled with exasperation. "The Master say give elder no reason for anxiety."
Mei ducked her head. "You're right, Ma."
"I am not right," Mrs. Liu barked. "The Master is right." By the Master, she meant Confucius, the spiritual grandfather of China, born more than five hundred years before Jesus. Arguing against the Master would be futile. The main dinner chef arrived, and Mrs. Liu dismissed us. "Skedaddle. Do homework. Good-bye."
Grateful for the reprieve, I slipped out of my apron. Mei planted her feet by the stove and lifted her chin. She looked exactly like she used to long ago when we shoved cooked rice and fruit under the stove to feed the hungry ghost that lived there: scared but determined. She turned to Linny and me. "I'm staying to help Ma. Wait for me."
Which meant Linny and I would get a little time alone and she could finally tell me what she started to say on Muni.CHAPTER 2
Today is a lucky day for the cheerful and optimistic. Too bad you're a pessimist.
Bubbling over with curiosity, I swished through the swinging door that separated the kitchen from the restaurant and sat down at a table next to a shelf crowded with cinnabar bowls. Brand-new hot-pink lanterns dangled overhead, blazing us with their cheerfulness. "So, what did you want to tell me?"
Linny took the seat across from me. Before school, she'd gathered most of her hair into a ponytail, but some of it had gotten loose, and a black cloud framed her face. "Mei should come clean to her mom about Darren, don't you think?" she asked.
I swallowed a sigh of disappointment. We'd been discussing this same topic for days. "I don't know. We're talking about Shoe Fang, here." Mrs. Liu's first name was Shufang, which conjured to my mind a pair of black Chinese slippers with long incisors. "Shin-Biter Woman."
Linny laughed. "She's not that scary. Darren has awesome grades and acts polite around adults. Shoe Fang doesn't have to know that he burns K-Pop mixes for Mei or that he has a weird way of eating string cheese."
I dipped a chopstick into a sauce bin and put the tip in my mouth. Yum. Mrs. Liu never serves soy sauce made from hydrolyzed vegetable protein. "If Mei tells her ma, she has to admit to lying. Anyway, Shoe Fang only cares about Harvard."
A derisive noise escaped from Linny's throat. "Mrs. Liu is so stereotypically Chinese. Harvard is all about bragging rights for her."
"That's not true," I said. Being third-generation American made Linny less sensitive to Mrs. Liu's point of view. Generally speaking, China's long and venerable history interested her less than, say, stories about our notorious classmate Gabby who, only last week, swore at the teacher who'd confiscating her cell phone. "Mrs. Liu works hard and wants the very best future for Mei. It's tradition."
"As if going to Harvard guarantees a successful life." Linny made a face to emphasize the sarcasm.
Harvard has produced nine U.S. presidents. Not to mention Natalie Portman and Matt Damon. Other amazing people went there too — Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Yo-Yo Ma — literary and musical geniuses with really cool names. Which kind of explained why I had applied there too.
"You haven't fallen for all that number-one-university crapola?" she said, wrinkling her nose.
"Just a little?"
During the application season, Linny had skipped Ivy League schools altogether, claiming they were snobby. Actually, though, junior year she devoted too much time to organizing protests, and her grades dropped some, which pretty much ruined her chances. My numbers were a little better than hers — still not up to Ivy League standards, but I'd applied to a few because I admired their scholarliness. Linny didn't share my reverence for academia.
"Harvard has like hypnotized the whole country," she said.
"I know, right? Who'd want to be Bill Gates?"
She laughed. "Exactly. Have you seen his hair?"
This whole discussion was theoretical, anyway, since the Ivy Leagues would reject me tomorrow. Besides, I'd gotten in to UC Berkeley, and so had Linny.
The waiter bustled over to our table. According to Mrs. Liu, he had a doctorate in plant physiology from a university in China, which kind of proved Linny's point. "What am I having?" I asked. She can make decisions faster than most girls can flip open their phones. I, on the other hand, like to ponder, take my time to consider all the options, a skill generally not appreciated by overworked restaurant staff.
Linny studied me. "Something balancing. Watercress and a bowl of hot and sour soup." After she pointed to the numbers on the menu, the waiter left, and her face changed. "So here's my question, X." X stands for xiao bi, small nose, her sweet nickname for me.
She hesitated. This had to be about her new love interest and international boy of mystery, Dub. After weeks of asking about him, I had gleaned these few facts: She met him at a gay-marriage rally at Berkeley. They'd held hands and laughed together. The band Plain White T's practically wrote the soundtrack to his life.
Excerpted from Miss Fortune Cookie by Lauren Bjorkman. Copyright © 2012 Lauren Bjorkman. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Lauren Bjorkman studied Mandarin at UC Berkeley and UC Davis. On her honeymoon in China, she learned to pick up a single grain of rice with chopsticks. She lives in Taos, New Mexico, with her husband and two sons. She is also the author of My Invented Life.
Lauren Bjorkman grew up on a sailboat, sharing the tiny forecastle with her sister and the sail bags. She now lives in Taos, New Mexico, with her husband and two young sons. She is the author of the young adult novel My Invented Life.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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What a breath of fresh air. No vampires, no shape-shifters, no angels, demons, fairies or any other supernatural creatures. No teenage sex, no crazy partying, no love triangle, or any of the other gimmicks used so often in YA lit. And, you know what? I didn't miss any of it! This is true realistic fiction. The story revolves around Erin, the anonymous writer of an advice blog called Miss Fortune Cookie, and her two Chinese-American friends, Mei and Linny. They are seniors in high school whose biggest concern is getting into the perfect college. While not involving the supernatural, there are a lot of real-life problems that these girls deal with: communicating with each other and their families, feeling like you belong somewhere when you don't look like you fit, feeling responsible for your parents, the struggle to be true to yourself while also being respectful of your family. All of these issues are dealt with throughout Erin's misadventure in Miss Fortune Cookie. I loved the main character, Erin. She's smart and funny and always has everyone's best interest at heart. She has grown up immersed in Chinese culture and language and feels a part of the Chinese community but she is not Chinese herself. Erin is really caught between two cultures. The author really does a great job of showing how hard it can be for a teenager in particular to feel like you belong somewhere but not look the part. One of the main themes of this book is friendship and how it evolves. Erin and Mei used to be BFF's before an incident in middle school caused a rift between them. Later on, in high school, they are brought back together by a mutual friend, Linny. Erin sometimes feels like the third wheel in the friendship and that Linny is the only thing holding them all together. As the story unfolds we see how much Mei and Linny rely on Erin. She is their confidante and the one they rely on to help them sort out their problems. By the end of the book, Erin realizes that she is as important to them as they are to her. There are some conflicts between the friends and Erin is often left wondering what she should do or say. Should she be truthful with them? Should she tell them what she really thinks or should she spare their feelings and just nod and agree? Another main theme is family and the struggle to be true to yourself while also following tradition and being respectful of your family. Mei's mother is a traditional Chinese woman and wants the best for her daughter - in this case, to attend Harvard. Mei is in love and wants to go to a different school to be closer to her boyfriend. How can Mei convince her mother that going to Harvard is not necessarily the best thing for her? In the end, this book is really about being true to yourself, being honest with the people you love, and communicating in a way that is truthful but respectful all told in a way that is fun and not too serious. This book is about real girls and real issues that they face all told through Erin's often hilarious observations and her advice on Miss Fortune Cookie. As a side note, the fortunes included as chapter headers were also hilarious! Highly recommended! Note: I received a copy of this book for free from the author through Crossroads Tours and Reviews. All opinions are 100% honest and my own.
What a breath of fresh air Erin is! She's not the usual brooding, complicated protagonist we get in so many young adult contemporary novels. She seems to genuinely love her school, her friends, her mom. Life in general! Her friends aren't quite as bubbly and content. They are more caught up in typical teen issues of romance and identity so it seems natural that Erin should give her conflicted friends a little push in the right direction. When Erin feels her Miss Fortune Cookie advice might have caused her friend, Mei, to run away with a boy, she sets off on a whirlwind jaunt around The San Fran area with a cute college guy as her sidekick. This is when we really get to see Erin shine in all her quirky glory as she rescues a woman by acting as a get-away driver while getting an impromptu driving lesson from her passenger, befriends an overtly honest little boy who follows her around like a lost kitten, nervously shares a hotel room with her crush and inadvertently hooks her mom up with a homeless man named Cigarette Willie. Erin also has to face down a hard choice about her future. Should she go to a more local college to be near her mom and the best friend she's relied on through high school? Or should she step out of her comfort zone and leave her beloved Chinatown? This novel very subtly deals with the issue young people are facing: Growing up! There comes a moment when we have to choose between keeping the good times, the status quo, going for as long as we can or leaving the nest. Ms. Bjorkman is able to present this idea slowly as it's weaved through all the head-spinning humor. Miss Fortune Cookie is pure sweetness. It's fast-paced, dizzying and joyful, like youth itself. If you're sick of books with agonizing conflicts, characters who take themselves far too seriously and unbelievable protagonists, then Miss Fortune Cookie is your antidote. This book does what so many fail to do: Celebrate life! A copy of this book was provided to me at YA Reviews and News via the publisher and Crossroad Reviews Blog Tours. The opinions expressed are honest and my own,
This book was a cute, change of the pace, feel good read and was a delight to read. Erin was born and raised in Chinatown and most of her friends are Chinese. Up until the eighth grade, Mei and Erin were best of friends, and not until seniors in high school did they start becoming friends again and only because of a mutual friend, Linny. Erin has a secret advice column called Miss Fortune Cookie, and this is truly what makes the book humorous. “Clubbing on a Monday night? What is Mei up to? I’ve only been to a club once. Me, with an older boyfriend.” This is standard high school drama and the author has done a splendid job relating to the teen market and showing that Erin is wise for her years, yet still has the same issues and insecurities most teenagers have and experience. The dust cover of this book is what drew me to it. The beautiful ashen blue gives the delicate glow of the fortune cookie a nice appeal and the actual fortune stands out, telling the readers they will surely love this book as much as I did! *This book was provided in exchange for an honest review* *You can view the original review at Musing with Crayolakym and San Francisco & Sacramento City Book Review