AUTHOR: Sue Cheung
PUBLISHER: Andersen Press
GENRE: General fiction (children's / teenage)
REVIEWER: Jogitheshwar Shivakumar
“Hey, Kwan, is your uncle Bluce Ree?” shout two bullies at Jo Kwan, a short, young Chinese girl who has just moved to Coventry, as she walks through the school gates. Racism, bullying, depression and a dysfunctional family are only some of the things young Jo has to face in her life.
In the form of a diary, Sue Cheung in the persona of Jo Kwan gives us an insight of her troublesome life during high school in her half fictional, half factual autobiographical novel, Chinglish. Sue has written many children’s picture books before, including Chill with Lil (2018) and Bob and Rob (2014); however, Chinglish (2019) is her first novel and has very interesting style and structure, making the book engaging and entertaining to read. For example, at the beginning of the book she mentions that “UR = Unknown reason” and this “UR” appears multiple times throughout the text after things she for which doesn’t know the reason – for instance, “He laughed bitterly, and walked off (UR).” I believe this causes the reader to engage and connect with the author more, because we realise that we are not the only ones who don’t understand some things and that the author doesn’t either. The style that the novel is written is also very engaging as it is very similar to the well-known Diary of a Wimpy Kid books by Jeff Kinney which have been very successful in the past. The book is written with dates, has headings with small paragraphs underneath outlining what had happened that day, and has pictures for humour and clarification. This style is very easy to follow and read, and has proven very congenial for young readers, so it was very smart of Sue to use this style.
The storyline is something I can relate to and I believe many others could too. This is great as it can really connect and engage the reader and, in fact, from reading the blurb and front cover, this made me pick the book up in the first place. The story is a journey of a Chinese girl pushing through her tough teenage years in Coventry, England, facing problems such as racism, bullying, depression and a dysfunctional family. Many teenagers have to face such problems in their lives, and this book, showing how Sue got through this period in life, can help others get through it as well.
I think it is very good that Sue Cheung decided to write a story about her life, as it helps teenagers realise that they aren’t the only ones that are finding their life very difficult at this stage, and that they can get through it.
I personally think the book was amazing because, first of all, I could relate to it as a teenager who has experienced some of the problems Sue encountered, and also because it was entertaining and engaging. I definitely recommend this book, but I feel like you will only really get connected and engaged with the book if you are 13–17 years of age. So, if you are in high school, you should definitely give this book a read.