Hi there, I’m so excited to be part of the blog tour for The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling and thank you to The Book Terminal for hosting this blog tour of a super wholesome book. Also, many thanks to the publisher for providing the access to the e-ARC. Now, let’s get to the review!
The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling (ARC)
Author: Wai Chim
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Released: November 30th, 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
ISBN: 1338656112 (ISBN13: 9781338656114)
Characters: Anna Chiu, Rory Smalls, Lily, Michael, …
An authentic novel about growing up in a migrant Asian family with a mother who is suffering from a debilitating mental illness.
Anna Chiu has her hands full. When she’s not looking after her brother and sister or helping out at her father’s restaurant, she’s taking care of her mother, whose debilitating mental illness keeps her in bed most days. Her father’s new delivery boy, Rory, is a welcome distraction and even though she knows that things aren’t right at home, she’s starting to feel like she could be a normal teen.
But when her mother finally gets out of bed, things go from bad to worse. And as her mother’s condition worsens, Anna and her family question everything they understand about themselves and each other.
The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling is a heart-wrenching, true-to-life exploration through the often neglected crevices of culture, mental illness, and family. Its strong themes are balanced by a beautiful romance making it a feel-good, yet important read.
Find out more about The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling at:
I was hooked from the moment I started reading this book. I was immediately being brought into Anna’s life and her mother’s mental illness. Being the eldest, the responsibility of taking care her younger siblings automatically falls on her shoulder. This, for me, is another typical YA contemporary set up. However, due to not reading YA for a long time, I was intrigued to see where Anna’s problems being an Asian kid and troubled household would bring me.
“With all due respect, Miss Kennedy, the system is broken if I have to give up other things, things I’m passionate about, just so ‘the system’ can tick a box that says I’m moving toward some socially acceptable career path.”
– Wai Chim, The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling
And of course, another trope that appears in this book is a charming cute looking boy, Rory, who also has depression and he attempted to commit suicide once. He appears to be vulnerable and very open up about his mental illness to Anna. Obviously, they slowly get together. I love how the author develops the relationships, not only for Anna and Rory, but also for Anna and her mother, Anna and her sister as well as Anna and her father. It’s such a heartwarming scene to witness her relationship with the people around her slowly build up and gets better, especially with her father. Though I do feel that the father’s character development is a bit too sudden at times. I understand that he changes according to the situations that happen in the book, but I would appreciate a little bit more if I were able to understand things from his lens. I don’t seem to hear much about what he thinks, it’s always Anna, Lily, their mother and Rory but somehow the father was just going with the flow.
“Anna, life isn’t some fairy tale or movie. We don’t get whisked into the sunset or try on fifteen outfits before the school dance. This is normal.”
– Wai Chim, The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling
This book highlights on mental illness and that is consistent throughout the book. The author also mentions what could happen if patients do not take their meds regularly and how it will all go back to square one. I appreciate that the author takes time going through how Anna’s mother slowly deteriorating with her mental health and show the whole situation how it impacts the people around her.
The author also highlights on immigrants’ life and family relationship. To see the Chiu’s family relationship slowly mended and becomes better was satisfying and simply beautiful. However, I do wish to understand how the immigrants are trying to survive and build a better life, trying to fit in a little bit better. The author did touch on these aspects but it is rather on the surface and I do wish she goes a little deeper into this issue.
Last but not least, reading this book at night is not a good idea, cause it makes you HUNGRY! All the spring rolls, stir fry, and good dumplings of course is making my mouth watery. However, because the title is about the dumpling itself, I was looking forward to see more on the process of making dumplings or other Asian cuisines in this book. Yes, I understand that the dumplings kinda bond the relationship of the characters in the story, and Anna’s father owns a Chinese restaurant, but it lacks description and depth when it comes to food. Again, it is basically just touching on tip of iceberg. I feel like it could be written more thoroughly.
Overall, despite some of the criticisms I have for this book, I still adore it a lot. It made me feel super fluffy with Anna and Rory’s relationship, it made me emotional when it comes to Anna’s mother’s situation and how hard they’re trying. I also appreciate the Cantonese dialect that is used throughout the book, it helps me to polish mine a little bit. Overall, it’s a wholesome book. I think everyone could use a nice, quick and heartfelt read.
You can check out The Terminal Books page for the Blog Tour Schedule and other reviewers’ thoughts on The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling.
About the Author
Wai Chim is a first-generation Chinese-American from New York City. Growing up speaking Cantonese around the house, she absorbed as much Western culture as she could through books, TV, and school. She spent some time living in Japan before making Sydney, Australia, her permanent home. In addition to her writing, Wai works as a digital producer/web developer for The Starlight Children’s Foundation, whose programs offer entertainment, education, and technology to critically, chronically, and terminally ill children. Learn more about her at waichim.com.