China Boy by Gus Lee China Boy: 9780452271586: Lee, Gus: Books

Kai has had a tender beginning, with a loving mother who has nurtured him, even favoring him as the “Only Son” among his sisters.  Now, however, he finds himself at a much harsher juncture, being the tiny, nearsighted, vulnerable target of all the neighborhood bullies.  Caught between his family tradition and his worldly circumstance, Kai struggles to overcome his daily obstacles, utilizing strength he never knew he had.

On its face, this is a potentially beautiful story, but I felt it was disappointingly told.  While Chinese history and culture from the 1940’s was colorfully embroidered into Kai’s family/back story, this background encompasses over half of the book.  Admittedly, some of it was interesting and deepened the context, but there is both redundancy and repetitiveness throughout.  Further,  while we endure every gory detail of each of Kai’s beatings, there is only minimal detail about his relationships with his sisters.  Kai’s sister, Jane, for example, is a strong, willful character who stands up to her stepmother.  I would have loved to have heard more about her and her relationship with Kai.  She is, unfortunately though, kept at bay.  Likewise, we know even less about his 2 older sisters.  

Similarly, once we do (finally) get to the plot, there is not much there that we cannot predict.  While Kai is a very endearing character, and we do root for him, we know where the story will take us before we get to the ending.  No surprises, no twists.  Nothing.

There is so much potential in the idea of this story.  Was it the writing?  The editing?  Not sure, but at least in my opinion, someone failed.