cover image Face in My Mirror

Face in My Mirror

Maureen Wartski. Fawcett Books, $4.5 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-449-70443-1

Though hampered by an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink plot and unimaginative characterizations, this well-meaning novel engages the reader by virtue of its sheer earnestness. Adopted as an infant and raised by a loving, supportive family in nearly lily-white Serena, Iowa, Mai has given little thought to her Vietnamese biological mother or her cultural heritage. But after she is assaulted by graffiti-spraying racists, Mai becomes obsessed with finding out whatever she can about her parents. Conveniently enough, Mai's biological aunt, Lien Van Tranh, is easily located and-after a flurry of letters and phone calls-Mai is invited to spend the summer working in the aunt's Boston restaurant. In the weeks that follow, Mai, an energetic heroine, embarks on her first romance even as she confronts just about every issue even peripherally connected to her origins: illegal immigration, the immigrant work ethic, gang warfare. At last crotchety Aunt Lien reveals the true story of Mai's saintly mother (``She was so gentle.... too gentle for life''). Despite the melodrama, Wartski's story is deeply felt and often moving. Ages 11-up. (Dec.)