Nothing but the Truth, and a Few White Lies | Justina Chen Headley

Half-Taiwanese, half-white Patty Ho feels like she doesn’t fit in anywhere—until she goes to math camp and makes some important discoveries.


• A YALSA Popular Paperback for Young Adults, 2008

• “Great voice from a very promising debut.” Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2006

• “Headley makes an impressive debut with this witty, intimate novel.” Publishers Weekly starred review, April 10, 2006

• “Patty’s contemporary, immediate thoughts about finding direction and relating to family have universal resonance, while her specific struggles will speak directly to biracial teens.” Booklist review, June 1, 2006


When a fortune-telling granny sees a white guy in Patty’s future, her overbearing Taiwanese mama has a few ideas for reversing the prediction: Patty will eat stinky tonic soup for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Patty will attend math camp this summer. Patty will meet a Nice (Taiwanese) Boy.

Never mind that Patty is half white herself. But Mama considers marrying Patty’s dad the one mistake she ever made, and she’ll do anything to keep her daughter from repeating it. So as Patty’s white girlfriends look forward to a summer of fun, she heads off to Stanford for what is sure to be a month of torturous Asian geekery.

To her surprise, some of the kids at math camp are actually cool, and she might even have a chance with Chinese hunk Stu. Things are looking up for this banana-split girl—but in order to feel truly whole, she’ll have to learn the truth about herself and her family.

This is, first and foremost, a novel about the search for identity. Patty doesn’t remember her father, but with her long legs and big eyes, sometimes she feels like she has more in common with him than her Mama and older brother. And that’s hard to reconcile with the jerks at school who call her “Chopsticks.”

Despite some painful moments, the story is carried by Patty’s humor and insight. (On Chinese foot-binding practices, she thinks: “Chastity belts for feet. If you can’t walk, you’re not likely to sneak out in the middle of the night, say to kiss a secret lover in the Quad.”) Any girl struggling to figure out who she really is will find the real deal in Nothing but the Truth.

Headley, Justina Chen. Nothing but the Truth, and a Few White Lies. New York: Little, Brown, 2006

Reviewed from library copy.


February 27, 2010. Tags: , , . Multicultural, Realistic. 1 comment.

Skunk Girl | Sheba Karim

Nina attempts to fit in at her small-town New York high school while respecting her parents’ wishes for her to remain a “good Pakistani-Muslim girl.”


• “Rife with smart, self-deprecating humor.” Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2009

• “A rare exploration of Muslim culture … will be a welcome addition to teen collections.” Booklist review, April 15, 2009


Bleaching her mustache and missing out on all the best parties are part of what Nina’s come to expect as a Pakistani-American teen with the strictest parents in town. At the start of her junior year in high school, she’s still living in the shadow of her genius older sister and still trying to figure out how to keep up socially in spite of her family’s fear that she’s becoming too “Um-ree-can-ized.”

Then the unexpected happens: Nina meets an attractive Italian exchange student named Asher—and Asher catches a glimpse of the dark line of hair running down the middle of her back. More humiliated than ever, Nina is certain that Asher will prefer button-nosed blond Serena over her scholarly, hirsute self.

Teens of all backgrounds will be able to relate to Nina’s struggle in reconciling her own identity with her family’s culture. While the girl-crushing-on-boy story may be familiar, the funny and touching Skunk Girl is truly a novel of a different stripe.

Karim, Sheba. Skunk Girl. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2009.

October 24, 2009. Tags: , , . Multicultural, Realistic. Leave a comment.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian | Sherman Alexie

A Native American teen transfers to a school outside his reservation and makes some surprising discoveries about his place in the world.

Awards & Honors

• National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, 2007

• A School Library Journal Best Book, 2007

• Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, 2008

• A YALSA Best Book for Young Adults, 2008


Junior’s life on the reservation pretty much sucks: His family’s poor, he’s constantly bullied, and his school books are so old that one of them used to belong to his mom when she was a freshman. Hardly anyone ever leaves the rez, but one day Junior realizes that doing so might be his only hope. He transfers to a “white” school 22 miles away—and finds himself an outcast there, too. Now he’s seen as a traitor to the tribe, his best friend won’t speak to him, and he’s not sure if he’ll ever fit in.

Alexie’s semi-autobiographical story rings true with sharp characterization and persistent humor, while illustrations by Ellen Forney enhance the reading experience. Junior is perfect company for anyone who’s ever wanted a place to belong.

Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. New York: Little, Brown, 2007.

July 19, 2009. Tags: , , , . Multicultural, Realistic. Leave a comment.

A Step from Heaven | An Na

A young Korean girl and her parents immigrate to California, where they struggle to pursue the American dream.

Awards & Honors

• A New York Times Notable Book of the Year, 2001

• A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, 2001

• Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Literature for Young Adults, 2002

• An ALA Notable Book for Children, 2002

• Asian Pacific American Award for Literature, 2004


Mi Gook—what is it? To Young Ju Park, it’s a magical place that makes her parents happy whenever they talk about it. Mi Gook is America, where she and her family will move for a better life than the one they have in Korea. They have to fly through the sky to get there, so Young Ju thinks America must be in heaven. But her new home doesn’t turn out to be all that she dreamed. Her dad has to work at two jobs just so they can rent a peeling-paint house and buy a car with ripped up seats. As Young Ju grows up, some things get better … but her dad’s drinking problem gets worse. Can their family’s life in America ever be close to heaven?

Na, An. A Step from Heaven. New York: Speak/Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 2001.

May 19, 2009. Tags: , . Multicultural. Leave a comment.