In this humorous and heartfelt debut about a split cultural identity, nothing goes according to plan for sixth-grader Lucy Wu.
Lucy Wu, aspiring basketball star and interior designer, is on the verge of having the best year of her life. She’s ready to rule the school as a sixth grader and take over the bedroom she has always shared with her sister. In an instant, though, her plans are shattered when she finds out that Yi Po, her beloved grandmother’s sister, is coming to visit for several months — and is staying in Lucy’s room. Lucy’s vision of a perfect year begins to crumble, and in its place come an unwelcome roommate, foiled birthday plans, and Chinese school with the awful Talent Chang.
“She said ‘don’t be a frog at the bottom of a well’ — jing di zhi wa. The frog in the well thinks he has life so great, but all he knows is the well. He doesn’t know what the ocean is like. Think of the greater things you can achieve.”
Coach Mike looked at us and rubbed his hands together. “Now for everyone’s favorite — suidices! Let’s go!”
They’re not called suicides because they’re pleasant.
This book was suggested to me as something one of my nieces might enjoy reading, especially since she is half Asian. I always read a book before gifting it because I don’t want to unwittingly give something inappropriate or less than enjoyable. The Great Wall of Lucy Wu did not disappoint! The world building was right on par with what I would expect from a Middle Grade novel, giving just enough to allow for a slightly immersive experience without rambling on and losing the reader’s attention. I was able to easily imagine Lucy’s school, home, and (most importantly) her Great Wall.
The character development was absolutely beautiful. At the end of the book, I felt like I really knew the primary and and a few of the secondary characters. As an adult reading The Great Wall of Lucy Wu, there were several times in the story I couldn’t help thinking how irrational the choices made by Lucy and her friends were. However, when I stopped to take into consideration that they’re all 11 and 12 years old, the decisions (like going to great lengths to ensure no adults found out there were problems) made perfect sense.
That’s definitely something older readers should acknowledge going in: this book was written with a target audience of 9 to 12 year olds in mind. Once that is acknowledged, you can enjoy Lucy’s story as thoroughly as I did. It’s a beautiful coming of age story that highlights bullying, love, family, and basketball.
The book also goes into depth on a few Chinese idioms, even demonstrating a few in the story. The most prominent of these idioms in this story is the one about the old man who lost his horse. The Great Wall of Lucy Wu has helped me realize how cultural idioms can be applied to every day life, though sometimes you have to look at longer stretches of time to fully understand their presence.
I recommend it to anyone with an interest in Middle Grade coming of age tales, especially if you have a Chinese background (or another dominant culture as I know there are others with similar stresses). I will most definitely be getting a copy for my niece.
Overall, I rate The Great Wall of Lucy Wu 4 out of 5 bookworms.
Don’t just take my word for it. Order a copy of The Great Wall of Lucy Wu and enjoy it for yourself! A few places you can go to get your hands on a copy are:
- Amazon US
- Amazon UK
- Books-A-Million (US)
- Barnes and Noble (US)
- Book Depository
- your local bookstore or local library
For more information about Wendy Wan-Long Shang, visit her website.