Reinberger Review: Maizy Chen’s Last Chance

Audience: 8-12 years

Review by Sarah Bihn (she/her)

MLIS Student, Kent State University iSchool 

Maizy Chen had only met her grandparents once in person, a brief visit that was over before it truly began. But when Maizy’s grandfather gets sick, she and her mother drive to Last Chance, Minnesota to spend a few days with him. Those few days turn into the entire summer as Maizy and her mother realize just how ill he is. At first, all Maizy can feel is sorry for herself. Her entire summer stuck in Minnesota instead of California! When she should have been spending time with her best friend, Maizy is instead working at her grandparent’s restaurant–the Golden Palace–and dealing with being part of the only Asian family in a small town. But as she gets to know her grandparents and other family members through her grandfather’s stories, Maizy realizes that a few months spent together wasn’t long enough, and that there is much more to her family history than she ever realized. 

Told from Maizy’s perspective, Yee approaches topics like racism and xenophobia without pulling any punches. While the individuals in Yee’s book are not historical, the existence of Paper Sons and the intolerance of Chinese immigrants are a part of America’s history that many textbooks often overlook. Yee introduces these topics to young readers through conversations between Maizy and her grandfather while also drawing parallels to modern-day society. She expertly combines the horrors of the past with hopes for the future. Overall, this book was a wonderfully moving read that comments on the static nature of society without adopting a pessimistic outlook on the present. No matter what age or ethnicity, readers will connect with Maizy’s love for her family, and pride in her heritage.

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