This book is about Stacy Palmer, a half Chinese, half American high schooler in the early 2000’s who if forced to help a new immigrant from China, Hong Ch’un to acclimate to the American lifestyle and English culture. When the two first meet, they instantly get off on bad terms, loathing each other and thinking the other as a inferior. They continue to argue and bicker until items dear to the hearts of kids start missing- and Hong Ch’un is framed. Not being able to handle the other kids accusations and hatred for her Hong Ch’un flees and runs away, leaving Stacy, her mom, and her grandmother, referred to as Tai-Paw to go and find her in the depths of Chinatown while also devising a plan to catch the real thief of hearts.
Laurence Yep is able to convey a plethora of feelings throughout the book and hits home on many topics and themes like identity, race, change, and dealing with change. Another thing that this book does is be able to be a sequel while retaining a stand alone feeling, reading this book and it’s predecessor Child of The Owl is a non-linear experience. And while their is a set order that you supposed to read them in, reading them in and opposite fashion or reading just one is not only fine, but completely possible to do without taking out any charm from the books. The book not only introduces the characters to both new and old readers well while not not disturbing the books flow, it also manages to sneak in some pretty dark themes, such as how Hong Ch’un’s mother was forces to burns her poems because they were against the Chinese government and never wrote poems again, or how Hong Ch’un calls Stacy a “mixed seed”, insulting her for being a Chinese/American mix. And while this helps the book have a good feeling and so forth, the book still could be worked on. For one, the book is too short! For example, the book ends on an open ending, forcing us to think of what happens to some of the characters, for example the Thief of Hearts fate, if Stacy gets her friends back ( can’t go into more detail without spoiling stuff ), and also fail to address key characters such as Hong Ch’un’s parents well, making them practically flat, cardboard characters compared too everyone else in the story, making push this book down from a probable 9/9.5 to 8.5.
And while this book may be failing in some points and a short read, I feel that this book is great for teens who are trying to find out who they are or people wanting to learn more about Chinese culture. Not only does this book give a clean, fresh outlook on Asian Americans, this book can also be applied to current events (by the way this book was first published in 1995 so that’s saying something). For example, this shows how some people feel about Muslims now that Isis and other terrorist have used it to mar the religion, this is the same by how Stacy automatic hates Hong Ch’un just for being there and ruining her day. So, overall, I feel that this book is worth a read, and while no suitable to all types of readers, is worth the time it takes to read.