Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Review: The Great Call of China (Cynthea Liu)

Title: The Great Call of China
Author: Cynthea Liu
Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 246
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Challenges: PoC
FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school library
Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Chinese-born Cece was adopted when she was two years old. Living in Texas, she's bored with her ho-hum high school and dull job. So when she learns about the S.A.S.S. program to Xi'an, China, she jumps at the chance. She will be able to learn firsthand about her passion--anthropology--and have the opportunity to explore her rots. But when she arrives, she gets quite a culture shock. And the closer she comes to finding out about her birth parents, the more apprehensive she gets. Enter Will, the cute guy she first meets on the plane. He and Cece really connect during the program. But can he help her get accustomed to a culture she should already know about by birthright, or will she leave China without the answers she's been looking for?

Review: I thought this was going to a be a bit of a fluff YA book. Girl goes to China, girl meets boy, they crush on each other, she learns to like Chinese food (she is, after all, Chinese by birth). However, I was sorely mistaken. Yes, there is a boy, but I feel like he took a back seat to the real story, which was nice. And Cece learns so much more than liking Chinese food.

First, Cece is an intelligent seventeen-year-old who knows what she is interested in: anthropology. How cool is that? She likes it so much she has found a study abroad program to attend for nine weeks during the summer. I did that just before my senior year in high school (German School at Middlebury College) and what a fantastic experience that is! Cece is particularly excited to see and study the terra cotta soldiers (pictured below). Have you seen them? Amazing! A small bit of them came to our art museum years ago. If you ever have the chance to see them, definitely go.

Cece's love of learning continues as she arrives in Xi'an with her explorations of the city, her descriptions of the people, the shops, and her adventures with her friends. She has a difficult time balancing school and a social life, but gets better as the book goes along, which is an accurate progression of a study abroad experience.

I liked that the author had Cece and her host student, Peter, get along so well without any romantic entanglements. He helps her with translating when necessary, she helps him with his English, and they become fast friends, experiencing fun cultural sites during her stay. Peter is also what makes the personal side of Cece's journey possible. They travel to Beijing to find the orphanage where she lived for two years before being adopted and taken to the United States.

I found this part of the book very powerful. There are discussions of adoption, orphanages, China's one-child policy, and more. I have a couple friends who have adopted girls from China and our discussions mirror those of Cece's. Cece's experience in looking for her birth parents is both heart-breaking and wonderful and, no, I am not going to tell you what happens.

I am so glad that I read this book and even more happy that it ended up being much more than I expected.


Geography Connection

(photo credit for the photo of the terra cotta soldiers)

Click to see my updated Google Map. My second book based in China, the other one was Dreams of Joy by Lisa See. That book covered some Mao years while this one takes place in the present. The author did a great job of "showing" me what Xi'an is like.

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