Book Reviews

Book Review: The Leavers

I just finished reading, “The Leavers” by Lisa Ko. I loved this book! I read it so fast, even with a lot going on in my life as I flipped through the pages.

Last year I had the pleasure of attending a reading and Q&A with Lisa Ko at Indiana University. At the time I remember having read only the first chapter of her book and I promised to myself that I would finish it, no matter what.

Well a year later, here we are. I finished the book!

In “The Leavers” a young boy, Deming, is seemingly abandoned by his immigrant mother. After staying a few months with the family of his mother’s boyfriend, his is surrendered to CPS and adopted by a white american couple who don’t know the first thing about Chinese people or culture. SO, Deming becomes Daniel and grows up.

As an adult Daniel is confronted with questions about his identity and destiny. How much of these problems are linked to his true heritage? How can he assimilate into the white-american world of academia that his adoptive parents want him to so badly accept? Does he need to find his mother to answer these questions? And, how does music play into all of this.

I thought the writing in Ko’s book was fantastic. She is able to hook readers in with lengthy descriptions, so we know all the necessary details about the settings and characters. She also makes the creative move of switching perspectives in the novel. We begin with Daniel/Deming, but in part two of the book we read a number of chapters from his mother’s perspective that give us answers we crave about her disappearance.

Deming/Daniel’s mother is not meant to be the villain of this piece, you can decide for yourself who is the villain, but her intentions are suspect for a few chapters. Later, in chapters of the book from her perspective we are given empathy for a girl who had a baby too young, and was forced to make decisions that no twenty-year-old should ever have to make.

If you liked “A Visit From the Goon Squad” or “Exit West” you’ll love “The Leavers”. Or, if you’re looking for a book who’s characters are underrepresented minorities. Sad to say I can’t name many books I’ve read with Asian protagonists. Especially written by an Asian author. I can’t wait to see what this tremendous author gives us next.

Keep Reading Bookworms xx

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