cover image Maizy Chen’s Last Chance

Maizy Chen’s Last Chance

Lisa Yee. Random House, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-984830-25-8

In this fast-paced narrative, Chinese American only child Maizy Chen travels with her food stylist single mother from Los Angeles to her mom’s hometown of Last Chance, Minn., to care for Maizy’s ailing grandfather. As the 11-year-old gets to know her estranged grandparents—mischievous poker player Opa and stern but loving Oma, proud restaurant owners— she must navigate unfamiliar stressors both familial and social, including the tension between her mother and Oma, and microaggressions as the only child of color in town. Over the course of an unpredictable summer, Maizy learns how to play poker, how her ancestors helped to support paper sons, and how to insert custom messages into the restaurant’s fortune cookies, all while solving a mystery or two. Interspersed segments reveal Maizy’s great-great-grandfather’s journey to Last Chance, efficiently conveying historical struggles faced by Chinese emigrants to America. If the book feels overstuffed at times, Yee’s (The Kidney Hypothetical) full house of endearing characters and assured voice prevail in a humorous, sincere story emphasizing the taut thread between past and present, and the imperative to aid others. Back matter includes an author’s note with historical context, a recipe for Oma’s Cream Cheese Wontons, and resources. Ages 8–12. Agent: Jodi Reamer, Writers House. (Feb.)