cover image Seeing Emily

Seeing Emily

Joyce Lee Wong, . . Abrams/Amulet, $16.95 (268pp) ISBN 978-0-8109-5757-2

In a highly visual, eloquently wrought first novel, Wong conveys a Chinese-American girl's coming of age. In free verse, narrator Emily, a blossoming artist, expresses her observations of loved ones (her concerned mother and father; her two best friends, Nina and Liz) and familiar places (like the Golden Palace restaurant her parents own). She also describes her view of recent acquaintances: new student Nick, who is destined to become her first boyfriend, and Alex, another newcomer whose Chinese parents are old friends of Emily's parents. Throughout the brief, impressionistic chapters, readers "see" Emily's urgency to grow independent as she turns 16, and at the same time, to try to keep hold of her heritage. Meanwhile, she passes through familiar phases—experimenting with make-up, challenging her parents, experiencing love and loss, and striving to reflect her inner self through two art projects. Not until Emily travels to Taiwan does she begin to understand that what she wants for herself is not so very different from what her parents hope for her. As Alex gently reminds her, it is all Chinese parents' dream that "their children...grow up/ to achieve their fullest potential." Ages 14-up. (Nov.)