Sixteen-year-old Anna cares for younger siblings and experiences first love while dealing with her mother’s mental illness.
Anna Chiu, a Chinese Australian teenager, is older sister to Lily, 13, and Michael, 5. Their father usually sleeps over at the family’s Chinese restaurant, leaving the children to cope with their erratic mother’s extreme, paranoid behaviors. On a good day, Ma is present, taking the kids on outings; on bad days she rants embarrassingly about the perfidies of Western culture or shakes the girls awake in the middle of the night to accuse them of disloyalty. On the worst days she is catatonic in bed. Anna’s schoolwork suffers and she feels alienated by her overachieving, popular Asian Australian schoolmates whose lives seem less burdened than her own. She starts helping out at the restaurant in hopes of bringing her family closer and alleviating their financial insecurity, leading to a romantic relationship with Rory, the White delivery boy—a sensitive, theatrical soul who is hiding his own secrets—that provides comfort. Ma’s episodes are outlined in strikingly authentic, heart-rending detail, as is the variety of the children’s emotional, PTSD–like responses; traumatized and yearning for normality, their portrayals ring especially true. Anna’s stomach churns with anxiety while Lily is often angry and Michael, scared and confused.
Gritty details lend depth to this viscerally powerful tale of a teen struggling to help her troubled family.(resources) (Fiction. 14-18)