Author: Kelly Yang
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Release Date: May 26, 2020
Speak enters the world of Gossip Girl in this modern immigrant story from New York Times bestselling author Kelly Yang about two girls navigating wealth, power, friendship, and trauma.
They’re called parachutes: teenagers dropped off to live in private homes and study in the US while their wealthy parents remain in Asia. Claire Wang never thought she’d be one of them, until her parents pluck her from her privileged life in Shanghai and enroll her at a high school in California. Suddenly she finds herself living in a stranger’s house, with no one to tell her what to do for the first time in her life. She soon embraces her newfound freedom, especially when the hottest and most eligible parachute, Jay, asks her out.
Dani De La Cruz, Claire’s new host sister, couldn’t be less thrilled that her mom rented out a room to Claire. An academic and debate-team star, Dani is determined to earn her way into Yale, even if it means competing with privileged kids who are buying their way to the top. When her debate coach starts working with her privately, Dani’s game plan veers unexpectedly off course.
Desperately trying to avoid each other under the same roof, Dani and Claire find themselves on a collision course, intertwining in deeper and more complicated ways, as they grapple with life-altering experiences. Award-winning author Kelly Yang weaves together an unforgettable modern immigrant story about love, trauma, family, corruption, and the power of speaking out.
Claire’s parents decide to send her to an elite American prep school for her final years of high school to give her a better opportunity for university. She becomes a “parachute,” which is what they call Chinese students who are sent to the United States to study. Most of the students stay with a host family, unless they can afford to live in their own home. Claire moves in with Dani and her mom. Dani attends American Prep on an academic scholarship, and she works with her mom’s cleaning service after school. Dani is a star on the debate team, so she spends a lot of time getting private lessons with her debate coach, until he gets too close to her. Claire appears to have a great life at that school, since the most popular “parachute” boy likes her, but things aren’t always what they seem. Though Dani and Claire don’t really get along, they both have similar problems they have to deal with.
There was a trigger warning at the beginning of the book that warns it will contain scenes of sexual harassment and rape. I was glad to see this warning at the book. I still chose to read it, but I liked that the warning was right there in the book. Sometimes I think that trigger warnings can be spoilers, because they give away things that will happen in the book. However, warnings are important to protect the readers from upsetting triggers. I was actually surprised at how the assault happened. It wasn’t the situation I expected.
The way the international students, like Claire, were treated was appalling. They were abused by teachers and their home hosts. Just because they were at a disadvantage because they weren’t in their home country, the teachers and hosts thought they could do anything and say anything to them. The school also separated international students from American students. That defeats the purpose of going to an international school, since the students end up only mingling with people from their own countries. That was only one of the problems that the school had.
The injustice in this book was upsetting and made me uncomfortable. There was racism and sexism. For some reason, the racism seemed easier for the authorities to punish than the sexism and harassment, which I found strange. I guess that was because the sexual harassment and sexism was often physical, so it is a larger issue, rather than words written down that are easy to erase.
I appreciated the author sharing her own personal connection to the story at the end of the book. This was an upsetting and disturbing story, yet it is an unfortunate reality that is important to share.
Thank you HarperCollins for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
What to read next:
Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen
Rules for Being a Girl by Candace Bushnell and Katie Cotugno
Have you read Parachutes? What did you think of it?