cover image Butterfly Yellow

Butterfly Yellow

Thanhha Lai. HarperCollins, $17.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-222921-2

Lai (Listen, Slowly) centers her remarkable YA debut on two 18-year-old protagonists: Ha˘'ng, a determined Vietnamese refugee, and LeeRoy, an aspiring cowboy. Just after her arrival in Texas from Vietnam in 1981, Ha˘'ng sneaks out of her uncle’s house to look for her younger brother, who was evacuated by American troops years before. Armed only with an address in Amarillo, she sets off on a bus, and, at a rest stop, collides with hopeful LeeRoy when strangers convince him to drive her, and their lives become further intertwined after they both find work on a ranch near Ha˘'ng’s brother’s adopted home. In chapters that alternately focus on the protagonists’ perspectives, the layered narrative gradually unwinds Ha˘'ng’s tremendous guilt about her brother, the trauma of her journey from Vietnam, and the intensity of the pain caused by her brother’s indifference. Lai ably sketches the chemistry between Ha˘'ng and LeeRoy; he interprets her English and helps her relate to her brother, she models dedication and loyalty, and the two slowly become friends and more. Told with ample grace, Lai’s finely drawn narrative and resilient characters offer a memorable, deeply felt view of the Vietnam War’s impact. Ages 13–up. [em](Sept.) [/em]