Thursday, November 1, 2012

Review: Miss Fortune Cookie

Lauren Bjorkman
Henry Holt and Co.
ARC received from publisher
Senior year for Erin, the anonymous blogger behind the wildly popular Miss Fortune Cookie advice column blog means college acceptance (or rejection) letters; finally fixing the messy past she has with her ex-best-friend-turned-current-best-friend, Mei; and stumbling into a possible romance of her own after so long being the only single girl in her trio of best friends.

This book is just as adorable as the cover leads you to believe (I mean, Erin answers the letters on her advice blog with fortune cookies), but there's a lot going on. From college decisions (Erin made a pact with Bestie #1, Linny, that they'd both attend UC Berkeley before college letters even went out, only to later question if that's the right decision) to the history between Erin and Bestie #2, Mei, who dropped her as a friend years ago and even since rekindling their friendship (thanks in large part to Linny), they've never been as close as they once were. When Mei finds herself stuck between the boyfriend she's head-over-heels for and her mother who insists she attend Harvard (instead of Stanford), even though it's on the other side of the country, Miss Fortune Cookie gets a letter that sounds like it could be from Mei herself. In addition to these plotlines, Erin also worries over leaving her mother alone when she goes away to college, and struggles with her deep love for Chinese culture despite being white. So yeah, there's a lot happening and though it's all wrapped around Erin and her alter-ego as Miss Fortune Cookie, I did have a few problems with various storylines (more on that later).

I'm tempted to cover this book in the vague, often-annoying adjective of cute, but that doesn't quite do it justice. The truth is, Miss Fortune Cookie is cute in the best sort of way -- in the way that Tweet Heart or Sequins, Secrets, and Silver Linings. It's the sort of cute that's full of heart and a sort of "feel-good" book that I can see myself reading again in the future. Erin is a smart, sweet, good-natured protagonist you can't help but root for and her two best friends are equally likable, despite their missteps along the way. That said, there were so many storylines here that were emotional and important but that ended up being wrapped up neatly, and too quickly for my liking. For instance, the heavy history between Erin and Mei is a subplot I wanted more from, especially as it was weighted down with race, culture, and the pain of being rejected by a best friend. Instead, this was solved quickly and much of the book was devoted to a counterprotest Linny was setting up at the girls' high school, which was a subplot I kept expecting to go somewhere and when it didn't I was disappointed mainly because without a payoff it felt so completely out-of-place with the rest of the book.

Still, despite the book's imperfect plots and subplots, this story is so easy to fall into for the simple fact that Erin herself is such an inviting character. I was easily swept up in the book because Erin is the best kind of "adorable YA" character -- the kind that pulls you alongside her, right into the story. It helped, of course, that the Chinatown setting is written so, so well and gives the characters and story more depth. If you're looking for a beyond-cute realistic YA read with just a hint of romance, give this one a try. Miss Fortune Cookie is set to hit shelves November 13, 2012.

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