Title: Fresh Off the Boat
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Recommended for: Girls, 12 and up
14 year old Vicenza (Vi-chen-za) Arambullo's life is anything but perfect. She's just moved to San Francisco from her homeland of the Philippines, leaving behind her best friend, Peaches, her popularity, and her former lifestyle of luxury and wealth. Now, she's living in a small South San Francisco house with her whole family, rummaging through the sale bin at the Salvation Army, depending on a staff cafeteria at Sears to bring her family income, and on scholarship at the snobby all-girl's school Grosvernor High, where she is constantly tormented by the snooty queen bee, Whitney Bertoccini. Seemingly worst of all, the adorable lacrosse player Claude Caligari doesn't seem to notice that she's alive, and her mom's making her take the geeky son of a family friend to the fancy black-tie Soirée d' Hiver. Between getting in a major fight with her mom, and lying about her non-perfect American life to her best friend back in Manila, Vicenza feels like she's living every girl's worst nightmare...Until she meets an awesome new friend and discovers that she already has everything she's ever wanted and will ever need right in front of her...
Melissa de la Cruz's heartfelt novel is fun, colorful, refreshing, and utterly enjoyable, right from page one up until the extremely satisfying, smile-inducing conclusion. OK-I'll admit it-I didn't have very high expectations for Fresh off the Boat when I first picked it up. Judging from the cover and the description on the back, I was expecting just another shallow fluff novel with no real moral, a fun beach read that I'd breeze through but not really get anything from. Well, I confess again, my friends, I was W-R-O-N-G. Sure, the book was an easy, quick read, but I found myself excited to pick it up again and read on. The plot is realistic, the characters are interesting, and Melissa de la Cruz completely opened my eyes to the life of a daughter of two culture-shocked, Lotto-crazed immigrants. I have to say, I'm pretty picky about what I like to read, analyzing every sentence, how the author set up all the dialogue. And Fresh Off the Boat completely satisfied me in every single way: it wasn't boring in the middle, it was fast-paced, well-set, and to top it off, well-written. The mother-daughter quarrel scene for me was a bit iffy, I thought that the dialogue and actions of both characters were overly melodramatic, even though Vicenza's mother had a slight point. I felt like rooting for Vicenza because, hello! Moving to America wasn't exactly easy for her, either! And she's suffering a whole lot at school, too! Luckily, de la Cruz gracefully rescued this with a few spot-on similes that perfectly lightened the mood, and boosted Vicenza's (and my!) side. Vicenza makes real mistakes, suffers real consequences, and learns real lessons that the reader will absorb right along with the lovable, just-trying-to-fit-in protagonist. I've read other novels by Melissa de la Cruz, but this one has to be by far the best yet.