Author(s): Andrew Xia Fukuda
Genre: (YA) Mystery, Suspense, Coming-of-Age
Page Count: 213
The Summary: A loner in his all-white high school, Chinese-born Xing (pronounced “Shing”) is a wallflower longing for acceptance. His isolation is intensified by his increasingly awkward and undeniable crush on his only friend, the beautiful and brilliant Naomi Lee. Xing’s quiet adolescent existence is rattled when a series of disappearances rock his high school and fear ripples through the blue collar community in which he lives. Amidst the chaos surrounding him, only Xing, alone on the sidelines of life, takes notice of some peculiar sightings around town. He begins to investigate with the hope that if he can help put an end to the disappearances, he will finally win the acceptance for which he has longed. However, as Xing draws closer to unveiling the identity of the abductor, he senses a noose of suspicion tightening around his own neck. While Xing races to solve the mystery and clear his name, Crossing hurtles readers towards a chilling climax.
(from the backcover)
The Review:While I don’t think this book is marketed as a YA novel, I think it will do well among the YA reader circle. The raw emotional experiences shown to us through Xing’s narration can resonate well with anyone who remembers high school, its isolation and the wish to fit in. The requisite love story and dreams of our underdog taking the singing lead will also ring familiar and true to those who enjoy their YA high school setting stories. And I believe that those who loved Justine Larbalestier’s Liar will enjoy the way this suspenseful story, for we once again get an unreliable narrator telling the tale, but not because Xing is a liar. Xing, instead, comes across as unreliable because he does not speak out for himself. He unravels his side of the story in the narration, but he never defends it wholeheartedly, letting other people’s assumptions dominate. It gives the readers the choice of who you are going to believe is telling the true story of events. I found this unreliability in the narrationf very interesting, because the whole time we can feel Xing seeking validation: for his innocence, for his potential to be more than the stereotype. But when it’s not given, he crumbles, and lets others and their opinions take over. It’s painful to watch, and it made Xing feel so real to me.
I’ll confess that I have no handle in the whole mystery/suspense genre. I suck royally at guessing who is the real killer and all that jazz that goes with this genre. Instead, I connected very deeply with Xing’s emotional development and his desire for his singing talent to be recognized. For me, this book was all about the broken, failed American Dream. How the promises and dreams that lured in immigrants failed spectacularly for Xing and his future. Xing had all this potential, was depicted as such a happy kid before arriving in the States, and all his painful experiences shattered him, ruined his voice, and how absorbing all that hate directed his way for simply looking Chinese with the wrong accent warped and changed him.
All the reflected experiences of growing up as an Asian immigrant felt extremely familiar to me. This is not saying that my experiences as a Chinese-Canadian is the same as the one depicted by Xing or by the one another Chinese character in the school, Naomi, as the experiences of Asians in North America are varied and diverse, but there is that thread of familiarity that struck real for me. For instance, the description of accents: “Her English was Julie Chen perfect; mine was Jackie Chan cumbersome.” (5) I could literally hear exactly what Fukuda meant by the difference in their accented English, and feel that chasm of difference it makes between the two, how the way you talk can make the difference between peer acceptance or ostracism. There is that fine line you have to thread, to look and speak a certain way so that you are “Canadian” or in this context, “American” enough, and when you fall too far away from this line standard you become too ethnic, too Chinese, too Other, the perpetual foreigner. Xing’s struggle with that fine line resonated deeply with me, and it made all his failed dreams in America hurt that much more. Every time we got a scene wherein Xing wished to look white, to have those blue green eyes and blond hair, how he equated that with acceptance, it stung raw because that could be my brother, my sister, my cousin, any of my Chinese-Canadian friends growing up who didn’t feel like they belonged enough.
Also, more of a sidenote, but I really liked the author’s choice of giving his narrator the name Xing Xu. I suspect the use of “X” in the name is very deliberate on the author’s part because it’s one of the transliteration of Chinese-to-English that gets most of your (white) teachers/authorities baffled and confused, resulting in very embarrassing but also very common attempts at pronunciation of your name during roll call in front of the classroom for the world to hear. It’s not uncommon to see Chinese immigrants adopted “English” names, and I appreciate how this detail was woven into the story, the roll call experience of getting your name butchered and asking to be called something else instead to avoid this. (fyi, Xing asks to be called Kris in this situation.) What I mean to say is that the details of Xing’s Chinese-American experience is so precise and woven in without making it the big moving storyline of the novel, and it was really nice to see.
The Verdict: An amazing read. Readers who enjoyed books like Liar or works by Robert Cormier should run to grab a copy of this novel. You’ll connect deeply with our narrator’s psyche, and I personally can’t wait for future projects by this talented new voice in the publishing market.
Cover and Title Discussion: I liked the idea of the shadowed silhouette within a snowy scenery, as snow and winter features prominently as a motif in this novel, but I suspect if ever the publishing house wishes to repackage this novel as YA, they’ll need a flashier cover. Also, I thought the red star could have been incorporated better. The title font is okay, but I thought the positioning of the title was awkward. Same goes for the author’s name. I also suspect that I’m too fond of the old cover concept that was released a while ago, one with the dual image of one closed eye with tears running down, but when you look closer it’s footprints walking into the snow. *shrugs* Oh well, there’s nothing terribly wrong with the cover design as a whole, but it’s also not particularly eye-grabbing either. As for the title itself, I thought it’s okay, but also kind of easily forgettable. I confess that when I recommend this novel I forget what the title of the book was, and would refer it to people as “that debut suspense book by the author Andrew Xia Fukuda” (I remember author’s names better than titles, usually) instead.
ETA by popular demand, this was how the old cover looked like. Feel free to tell me what you think.