WARNING: THIS BOOK IS NOT FOR EVERYONE
Don't let the cover's pink, white, and red color scheme, or chicklit-ish title fool you. Kim Wong Keltner's I WANT CANDY is not some lighthearted, nostalgic ode to life as a teen in the '80s. Keltner explores life as experienced by fourteen year old Candace, who wants more from life than what the lager culture deems appropriate for someone of Chinese descent.
Candace knows the odds of her dream boyfriend, Rick Ocasek from The Cars driving up next to her as she walks the streets of San Francisco may be slim to none. That doesn't stop her from squirreling away every penny she earns and dreaming of the day when she will be more than the Egg roll Girl in the Chinese restaurant run by her family. Candace plays sidekick to "hot" girl Ruby (the only other Chinese girl in attendance at Candace's private Catholic school), serves as class treasurer, and harboring feelings of general misanthropy, all the while waiting for her life to begin. But when things actually start happening, Candace faces startling truths about herself, her family, and her heritage she never even imagined.
Candace isn't necessarily the most likable character and I spent a great deal of this novel fairly appalled by her behavior, but the contrasts of Candace's personality ring true. Throughout her journey Candace remains a compelling force, driving the reader to follow her story to it's unexpected conclusion.
Kim Wong Keltner's weaves underlying themes related to the history of Chinese women in San Francisco, the cultural gap between immigrants and the Americanized offspring, and the contrast of values between the various worlds in which Candace moves, into the larger narrative. I was especially pleased by the author's repeated denunciation of the cultural mindset fetishizing and objectifying Asian girls and women.
If you're looking for a novel to churn the gears of your mind, I WANT CANDY is definitely one to check out.
Originally posted at TeensReadToo.com