the best friends you’ll never have

Ugh. This BOOK. Just WHY.

One thing a fiction writer should do is research the hell out of what they’re writing about. Perhaps we should blame Ann’s grueling BSC schedule for the fact that she did not research adoption like, at all. The lucky Basini kids in this book, however, got an entire month to adjust to the reality of a new adopted Vietnamese sister coming, unlike the Thomas-Brewers. But of course, they were preparing for a toddler boy and ended up with an eight-year-old girl because the agency messed up, and the Basinis were like, “Whatever, that’s cool. Oh, and her name is too hard for us to pronounce or even acknowledge, so we’re just gonna have our nine-year-old daughter name her.”

There are literally NO REFERENCES to what Jackie’s life was like in a Vietnamese orphanage. Her birth name and her prior life are not mentioned at all. She basically did not exist before she landed in America and met her adopted family, and pretty much has no issues and everything is great. What bugs me about this book is that the whole adoption plotline was pretty unnecessary. You could have had the same basic story about two sisters, one dyslexic and the other advanced for her age, without adding in the adoption part. You could have had stepsisters, if you wanted them to be new siblings. If you don’t want to do the research to do justice to your plotline, then don’t use that particular plot.

Perhaps the most offensive part of the whole thing is Ann’s worst use of dialect transcription ever. Logan’s “Southern drawl” is eyeroll worthy, yes. But at least it’s the right language. Jackie’s “accent” consists of mixing up “l” and “r.” Now, the 80s are the decade that brought us Long Duk Dong, so perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising. But there is nothing on the Wikipedia entry on the subject about Vietnamese native speakers mixing up “l” and “r” in English. This is something commonly associated with Japanese, which is not related to Vietnamese at all. Asia=Not one giant country.

Shirley’s dyslexia isn’t dealt with all that well either. Her Resource Room teacher gets her to learn how to enjoy reading using the magic of Beverly Cleary. The end.

It does have a nice ending, where Shirley feels fulfilled through art and writes a really nice essay about her family and gets a prize. She also stands up for Jackie. But ugh, Ann should just have never started with the whole Vietnamese adoption thing, either here or in BSC. I think they did a slightly better job with Emily Michelle, which tells you how clumsily and offensively it’s handled in this book.

Random thoughts:

  • Dad is an English professor, not a lawyer. I was shocked too. But the best English professor dad of all time is Myron Krupnik.
  • Older brother goes to a really good school that is never named. Five bucks says Ann had Princeton in mind.

    External links:
    Kirkus was much more gentle in their review.

  • 7 Responses To This Post

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    Jess said, June 8th, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    Can you imagine this getting published today? At least, I hope it wouldn’t get published. But the 80′s…crazy.

    And yay for Myron Krupnik love! There’s a reason I refer to the Krupniks as Awesome Parents on my blog.

    greer said, June 8th, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    @Jess YES the Krupniks=dream parents.

    I certainly hope this book wouldn’t pass muster today. It is definitely not one Scholastic would rerelease, like they did 10 Kids. They’d have to edit it, and it’s not a book classic enough to merit the effort.

    tintin lachance said, June 9th, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    This is the first book I ever read about adoption OR dyslexia, and in retrospect, I cringe so hard about that fact. I remember vividly Jackie talking about being called “srope eyes.” UGH!

    BSCAG said, June 13th, 2014 at 1:39 am

    I just read about the influx of Vietnamese orphans during the fall of Saigon (Operation Babylift)…those adoptions would have happened relatively quickly compared to today’s process. I wonder if AMM had something like that in mind for her Vietnamese adoptions appearing out of nowhere.

    greer said, June 13th, 2014 at 9:44 am

    @BSCAG: Before writing this post, I did some research on Vietnamese adoptions. It’s possible Ann was thinking about this, but obviously, by the 80s, Operation Babylift was no more.

    I did find that Vietnam has stopped adoptions altogether several times in the past 20 years, and there have been countries such as France and Canada that have been temporarily banned from adopting from Vietnam. It is quite likely than Ann had a friend who adopted a baby from a shady agency, or saw something about Operation Babylift on PBS, and thought that’s just how it works. I seriously cannot imagine a reputable adoption agency calling and saying that “Oh, we messed up, forget about the toddler boy, have an eight-year-old girl instead!” and I also thought that adoption from a foreign country generally involves travelling to said country.

    BSCAG said, June 14th, 2014 at 12:34 am

    Yeah, Greer, that’s exactly what I was getting at. With Operation Babylift, I don’t think there were visits to Vietnam (again, Fall of Saigon!).

    I also remember having a stupid short story in a reading book in sixth grade about a family who thought they’d get a baby through Operation Babylift but ended up with a boy around six or seven (who was–oh, horrors!–Catholic! And I was one of maybe six Catholics in a mostly Protestant private school. Fortunately only the book was dumb on that subject; the teachers and everyone rolled their eyes with me.)

    Since Ann’s stuck in the past with I Love Lucy and all, it wouldn’t surprise me if she figured adopting a Vietnamese baby would be as “easy” as this. My husband and I would love to adopt in a couple years. We have two biological children and will soon try for another, but we also have several people close to us, family and friends, who are adopted and we’d love to take in someone who needs a loving home. I wish you could wander in to some little office and magically get a kid!

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