Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books
Publication Year: 2020
Page Count: 496
Rating: 5 stars!!!!
Rep: Chinese MC, Filipino American MC, queer side characters, single mom
TW: Rape, sexual assault
Blurb (From Goodreads):
They’re called parachutes: teenagers dropped off to live in private homes and study in the US while their wealthy parents remain in Asia. Claire Wang never thought she’d be one of them, until her parents pluck her from her privileged life in Shanghai and enroll her at a high school in California. Suddenly she finds herself living in a stranger’s house, with no one to tell her what to do for the first time in her life. She soon embraces her newfound freedom, especially when the hottest and most eligible parachute, Jay, asks her out.
Dani De La Cruz, Claire’s new host sister, couldn’t be less thrilled that her mom rented out a room to Claire. An academic and debate-team star, Dani is determined to earn her way into Yale, even if it means competing with privileged kids who are buying their way to the top. When her debate coach starts working with her privately, Dani’s game plan veers unexpectedly off course.
Desperately trying to avoid each other under the same roof, Dani and Claire find themselves on a collision course, intertwining in deeper and more complicated ways, as they grapple with life-altering experiences. Award-winning author Kelly Yang weaves together an unforgettable modern immigrant story about love, trauma, family, corruption, and the power of speaking out.
Oh goodness, I don’t even know where to begin with this one, other than the fact that this might have been the best book I have read all year, possibly ever. It was the perfect mix of high school drama, friendship, romance, and serious topics. I thought this was going to be a mindless, fun YA contemporary resembling Crazy Rich Asians in high school, but I was wrong in the best way possible.
This book is in duel perspective, following Claire and Dani. Claire is a “parachute,” a Chinese student sent to live in America by their parents to attend an American school. Claire’s parents are still in China, and so she moves in with a host family, which is made up of Dani and her mom. Dani and her mom have struggled with finances since the passing of her dad. When she has a chance to compete in a debate competition to earn a scholarship to an Ivy League School, she pours her heart and soul into practices, and seeks council from her debate coach Mr. Connelly. Although the two girls come from completely separate worlds, by the end of the book they realize they have more in common than they think.
I definitely related to a Claire a bit more than Dani. Claire was just an overall super fun character to read about. From the outside, it would appear she had a perfect life, yet when we get to know her we see the toxic relationship she has with her father, and eventually her boyfriend, Jay (literal piece of scum). Claire is hard working, and her character certainly develops during the course of this novel when she is forced to grow up and make life changing decisions. We watch her grow from a spoiled, rich high school student to a sympathetic, caring friend to Dani.
Meanwhile, Dani was just as memorable as Claire. She is on of the poorer kids at her prestigious high school, and tries to blend in with the crowd. The only place she is able to really shine is when she performs on the debate team. This was a super interesting hobby to read about, because my high school didn’t have a debate team so it was a super unique perspective to read from.
Both characters had a distinct voice, and I never struggled separating the two from each other. The two girls don’t interact much throughout the book, despite them living together. It isn’t until towards the end where we really see their friendship blossom, despite their obvious differences.
The characters definitely stood out to me, but the plot was also fast paced and very emotional. The author discusses heartbreak, friendship, racism, and sexual assault. You can tell these are topics very near and dear to the author’s heart. She even goes into detail in the author’s note about how her story is quite similar to Claire’s, and she wrote this story to show the world that schools need to be held accountable for the sexual assault that many students face, whether the attackers be fellow students or teachers. By the end, I was actually crying (which isn’t something many books make me do). This book will make you angry, and it will make you sad. But by the end, I was feeling hopeful at the same time.
I could literally gush about this book for hours, and I’m sad it isn’t getting as much buzz as it deserves. So, just a fair warning you will be seeing a lot about this book on my blog from now on! I could not recommend it enough, and I know it is a story that will stick with me forever. Dani and Claire’s stories were so touching, and I am so thankful the author wrote this novel to speak out about these heavy topics.