Mercy Wong, the daughter of a Chinatown launderer in San Francisco, has always been ambitious, but it's a hard trait for a 15-year-old Chinese American girl to have. Still, that ambition (plus a little bribery) gets her in the door of prestigious St. Clare's, a school that would otherwise never admit someone like her. Just as her headstrong demeanor gets her into big trouble, even bigger trouble arrives: the historic earthquake of 1906 devastates the city. As the dust settles, Mercy tries to find her family, and she and her classmates face a startling new reality where empathy and generosity have the power to supersede class and race lines. Mercy's narrative is flecked with witty puns, pithy wisdom from her fortune-telling mother, aphorisms from her favorite business book, and her obsession with bad-luck number four, all of which provide meaningful insight into both her character and her culture. While slipping in plenty of meaty historical context, particularly about the discrimination facing Chinese immigrants at the time, Lee tells a resoundingly warmhearted story about community arising amidst earth-shattering disaster. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
Lee (Under a Painted Sky) creates another strong Chinese-American protagonist, 15-year-old Mercy Wong, in a novel set in 1906 San Francisco, where extreme discrimination against the city's Chinese population flourishes. Mercy's father runs a laundry, her mother is a fortune-teller, and six-year-old brother Jack is her treasure, but Mercy dreams of becoming a successful businesswoman. Characterized by her "bossy cheeks," she bribes her way into an elite girls' boarding school, where she poses as a wealthy heiress. Just as she is found out, the historic earthquake hits. In its aftermath, the story becomes a somewhat predictable survival tale as the schoolgirls overcome differences to work together to feed the homeless population camped out in Golden Gate Park. Suspense over the fate of Mercy's father and romantic interest helps hold readers' attention, but the girls' adventures and achievements in building a community out of the diverse park residents are not as compelling as the interplay between Mercy's life in Chinatown and at St. Clare's School for Girls, which makes for an original exploration of a time and place not often depicted in historical fiction. Ages 12–up. Agent: Kristin Nelson, Nelson Literary Agency. (May)
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School Library Journal Reviews
Gr 7 Up—Mercy is ambitious: she wants to own her own tea importing business, but the options for a young Chinese American girl in San Francisco in 1906 are severely limited. Mercy uses her cunning and business sense to bribe her way into St. Clare's, an elite school for girls. Not long after her arrival, the teen finds out that she will be learning comportment, not business. Mercy's disappointment compounds with a hostile roommate, skeptical classmates, and her end of the bribe she must uphold to stay enrolled. Everyone seems to be hiding secrets, and the 1906 earthquake is coming. Will Mercy be able to outrun and outwit her fate as a laundryman's daughter? Lee creates characters full of depth and nuance that seem historically accurate but still relatable to today's teens. Mercy is a strong protagonist full of determination and adventure who moves the story and will compel readers. Her drive to succeed; her love of her brother, Jack; and her goodness will endear her to readers. VERDICT A diverse, engaging historical fiction that should not be missed.—Cyndi Hamann, Cook Memorial Public Library District, Libertyville, IL
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"On the eve of the San Fransisco Earthquake of 1906, Mercy Wong--daughter of Chinese immigrants--is struggling to hold her own among the spoiled heiresses at prestigious St. Clare's School. When tragedy strikes, everyone must band together to survive"-- - (Baker & Taylor)
On the eve of the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, Mercy Wong--daughter of Chinese immigrants--is struggling to hold her own among the other students at St. Clare's School, until tragedy strikes and they must band together to survive. - (Baker & Taylor)
Gaining admittance into an elite school usually limited to white girls, 15-year-old Mercy Wong, who strives to escape from her disadvantaged life through education, endures harsh conditions in a park encampment when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroys her home and school. Simultaneous eBook. - (Baker & Taylor)
From the author of the critically acclaimed Under a Painted Sky, an unforgettable story of determination set against a backdrop of devastating tragedy. Perfect for fans of Code Name Verity.
Winner of the PEN Center USA Literary Award for Young Adult
Winner of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature
San Francisco, 1906: Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from the poverty of Chinatown, and an education at St. Clare’s School for Girls is her best hope. Although St. Clare’s is off-limits to all but the wealthiest white girls, Mercy gains admittance through a mix of cunning and a little bribery, only to discover that getting in was the easiest part. Not to be undone by a bunch of spoiled heiresses, Mercy stands strong—until disaster strikes.
On April 18, a historic earthquake rocks San Francisco, destroying Mercy’s home and school. Now she’s forced to wait with her classmates for their families in a temporary park encampment. Though fires might rage, and the city may be in shambles, Mercy can’t sit by while they wait for the army to bring help—she still has the “bossy” cheeks that mark her as someone who gets things done. But what can one teenage girl do to heal so many suffering in her broken city?
Stacey Lee masterfully crafts another remarkable novel set against a unique historical backdrop. Strong-willed Mercy Wong leads a cast of diverse characters in this extraordinary tale of survival. - (Penguin Putnam)