I am a big fan of Lisa Yee’s Millicent Min trilogy, and this is another excellent, and somewhat darker and more complex, novel about how kids deal with parental expectations and obligations, and how this can distort their view of themselves.
Higgs Bosun Bing is graduating from high school in seven days and the world is his oyster: he’s been accepted at Harvard, he’s going out with the beautiful Rosemary “Roo” Wynn, he’s captain of the debate team and valedictorian. Little does he know that his answer to one little hypothetical question will pull the rug out from under him, and cause him to re-examine everything in his life before the week is up.
When a virulent smear campaign starts up at school, Higgs has to look at the narrative he has spun for himself, and the author carefully shows his slowly dawning understanding of how he misunderstood both himself and his relationships with friends and family members. It is predictable, yes, that the unknowingly arrogant putative Senior of the Year is brought to his knees by the people he has scorned for so long, but is still quite painful to read.
Higgs is an insightfully created Chinese American character, caught between two cultures. His father had set a path for his older brother – Harvard, then dentistry – and after Jeffrey was killed in a car accident, Higgs dedicated himself to fulfilling his father’s dream. There are telltale signs that’s not where Higgs’s heart lies though he has never questioned it till now, but when he meets Monarch, a bohemian spirit who apparently lives in an old Airstream in the woods, Higgs has his eyes opened to a different approach to life.
Higgs’s narration is smart and funny, though he is not always likeable, as he tries to do what he believes he must do, even as his world crumbles. His self-deceptionn only gradually emerges as the reader is allowed to see him through the eyes of those around him.
Though there are a few threads that are rather too quickly resolved or happen without too much explanation, Higgs reaches a satisfying resolution, ensuring that this novel will engage any teen who has ever felt pressured into following a track not of their choosing.
Thanks to Edelweiss/Levine for the ARC.