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*April and the Dragon Lady* by Lensey Namioka- young adult book review  
April and the Dragon Lady
by Lensey Namioka
Grades 7+ 224 pages Harcourt August 2007 Paperback    

Sixteen-year-old April Chen is dating Steve Daniels, a fellow member of the Rock Hounds. There’s one big problem with that, though: he’s not Chinese.

Torn between upholding her grandmother’s traditional Chinese values and her own independence, April struggles to escape the guilt that comes from neglecting her duties as a granddaughter. Why does April and not Harry, her older brother, have to take full responsibility for her aging grandmother? Why does she have to help with the cooking and not Harry? Why does his education matter more than April’s? It’s different being a Chinese-American - more so if you’re a girl.

April sacrifices many aspects of her social life to care for her dad’s mother. As a result, she develops a bitter frustration toward her family and a sense of isolation. Though she’s grateful for a boyfriend like Steve, who seems to accept her way of life, she can’t shake the creeping suspicion that Steve likes her solely because he’s fascinated with the Far East.

It’s not easy trying to unite two cultures—one rooted in ancient practices and obligations, the other modern and always moving toward progress. Like many children from immigrant families, she never quite feels she’s completely part of either culture.
“The problem was that I belonged neither to the world of Steve and Judy, nor to Grandma’s world. Belonging to an ethnic group wasn’t as simple as belonging to the Rock Hounds. I was a minority of one, and I felt very lonely.”
This is a book seeking to educate rather than entertain, but it’s written well in a clear, easy-to-follow style and maintains quite a somber tone throughout. The story of April’s world is serious, after all. What keeps you reading is the question: will she escape from the Dragon Lady’s grasp?

“Dragon Ladies” are strong women from Chinese history. A reference is made to the Dowager Empress who ruled China with an iron fist – a character that April compares to her grandmother in the exaggerated way teenagers do.

Themes of belonging, race, mental health and power struggles resonate throughout the book. Though the narrative does not move a in a fast pace the way you would hope, this poignant story gives insight into the everyday battles of a Chinese-American girl and should be read by anyone interested in the lives of ethnic communities.

This edition comes with a ‘Reader Chat Page’ containing essay-like questions to stir the reader’s memory—questions best left for the classroom. On the whole, April and the Dragon Lady is a thought-provoking good read.
Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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  Payal Patel/2009 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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