Review: Half-Chinese, Half-Jewish Protagonist Questions Meaning Behind “All-American Girl”

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Lauren and her best friend since forever, Tara, are inseparable. They do everything together, yet somehow Tara is always the one in the spotlight. She’s the one all the teachers love, and the one who was always picked early for P.E.

All of this makes Lauren feel like a side dish, Tara being the main course. So when their school play nears, Lauren (who has a beautiful voice) hopes that landing the lead role will give her a chance to shine instead of Tara. But when the production is cast, Lauren is in the ensemble…and Tara will yet again be the star. Their director tells them it’s because Tara looks more the part of an all-American girl than Lauren, who is half-Chinese and half-Jewish.

This book, Not Your All-American Girl, was really compelling, not only because I could relate to the main character’s love for singing and theater, but also because it was overall really interesting. And the question of what it means to be American lingers with Lauren until the curtain rises. There were a lot of sub-scenes in All-American Girl like her Safta (grandma) getting a cat, Lauren doing singing gigs, and getting to be on a radio show. I love when books wander away from the main plot a little and give the characters more of a realistic life.

I think this book was waiting to be written – it just needed the right people to write it. The two authors, Madelyn Rosenburg and Wendy Wan-Long Shang did an amazing job of crafting a masterpiece, and I can’t wait to read their next book together!

Even though it was set in the 80s, tweens in the present can relate to this book. Kids eight to 12 would enjoy this book. It is pretty kid friendly, yet there are scenes depicting derogatory words used against Chinese people and mention of a violent act against Vincent Chin, a Chinese American beaten to death in a hate crime in Detroit.

I rate this book four out of four roses!

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